Fitness routines are essential for keeping mental and physical health intact, says Dinesh Shetty, Founder, Production Crew Entertainment Pvt Ltd, The Riding School and God Life Cafe.
Working out is not just about managing your weight and sculpting your muscles. It goes beyond that, acting as a key facilitator for keeping a check on mental health and happiness. Yes, without a doubt, exercise does help you maintain your physique and boosts confidence, but more than that, it inspires the brain to focus on positive aspects and enriches life.
Exercise and the brain
What if I told you that you don’t need to go on keto diets and intense exercise regimens to achieve all this? Just a nominal amount of exercise will make you feel the difference? Several studies agree that sweating it out regularly with routine exercises releases serotonin and dopamine which takes away stress, anxiety and gloom, making you feel lighter and content. It can also help deal with depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Aerobic exercise is known to improve cognition, sleep quality and one’s mood. Even just going for a jog every alternate day will present results in a few days.
How does it work?
As mentioned earlier, regular exercise has proven to be extremely effective in managing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. So much so, that psychologists recommend it as part of the treatment. In the case of anxiety, the stress that strenuous exercise puts on the mind and body mimics that of an attack. The repetitions train the muscles to endure this stress and conditions the mind to overcome the suffocating sensation. In addition, following a routine, right from getting dressed to hitting the gym or going outdoors, helps steady the mind and normalizes certain behaviour and interactions that could otherwise act as triggers, such as being in a crowded space.
Similarly, working out helps strengthen neural growth and induces feelings of calm and healing from within. Apart from endorphins that are released and help lift the state of mind, it acts as a good distraction and keeps the negative thoughts and feelings from clouding the mind; channelling energy towards positive thoughts.
Exercise for a healthy mind
Irrespective of whether you are suffering from a mental health condition or not, exercising regularly can improve mental well-being.
A disciplined exercise regime helps you focus on achievable goals and will give you a sense of accomplishment as you achieve them and better yourself. It motivates you to push further and harder, improving self-esteem, and keeping failures and inhibiting experiences from bringing you down.
Improved memory and quick thinking: Our brain requires oxygen to function optimally. The more the oxygen, the better the functionality. The physical strain from regular exercise forces the body to take in more oxygen. This leads to the body retaining more oxygen which is carried to all organs via the bloodstream, improving cognitive thinking and memory.
Improved sleep quality: Regular exercise puts a strain on the muscles and triggers the body to seek rest and healing. This allows you to sleep deeper and better, improving sleep quality. Light exercises like yoga or just simply meditation before turning in to bed promotes better sleep.
Energy and mood boost: Exercise and a healthy diet go hand-in-hand. A balanced diet, packed with nutrients, boosts energy and functionality. Fresh food like fruits and vegetables also go a long way towards boosting mood.
Boosts emotional well-being: A routine exercise regime also helps balance hormone levels better, keeping you steady and in a better position to manage emotional lows.
Tyson Fury, a professional boxer who struggled with alcohol and drug abuse that led to a decline in both his physical and mental well-being, is a good example of using exercise to find one’s centre and overcoming mental health issues. In his words, “You need to stimulate your mind and training is the perfect way to do it. Working out. Exercising. Whether you do a lot or a little, you must do something. I gave myself both short-term and long-term goals and I plan things more now. It doesn’t always have to be big; you can give yourself tiny, small goals that mean something to you as a person. I am very sure that working out and having a routine in your life is the solution for mental health problems.”