Role of exercise in emotional well being

Emotional Harmony: How Exercise Can Boost Emotional Well-Being

Emotions are core to all living things. They are so core to all our lives that everything we do is driven by it. 

So it makes sense to keep an eye on our emotional health and how we can improve it when it gets bad. Right?

Exercise is an often overlooked method of dealing with such emotions but it can be effective! 

Why do we feel really good after an exercise session?

The chemical composition of our brains needs to be balanced to be emotionally well and have a good quality of life. Let’s explore how exercise affects the various major emotional systems! Get ready for your “aha” moments!

Quick Overview:

Human emotions:

Various theories try to explain what an emotion is. Let’s say that our body undergoes some physiological changes/reactions when encountering an event. These cause us to feel emotions. 

Several neuroscientists have come up with different major emotional states for human beings. 

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Fear 
  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Surprise

This is an oversimplified way of looking at this because emotions are often complex and intertwined with each other and often come as a group that it requires cognitive processing to even understand it.

For instance when we feel anxiety, fear, and stress at the same time.

” Emotions change how we see the world and how we interpret the actions of others”

  • Paul Ekman

Effect of exercise on major emotional systems:

How does exercise affect stress?

Fitness enthusiasts must be well aware of the stress-relieving effects of regular exercise. 

53% of people state that they feel good after exercising. 63% of teens say that using exercise to manage stress is effective.  Even Though the amount of effect exercise would have will vary among individuals based on genetics, fitness level, and personal preference.

Exercising at least once a week makes a huge difference in the stress level of individuals!

Journal of Clinical Psychology and the Journal of Sport and Exercise have highlighted the strong correlation between regular exercise and reduced stress levels.

So exercise is a good balance to include in your routine to keep yourself feeling good.

  • Stress is majorly caused by cortisol body and exercise helps reduce that 
  • It releases endorphins in your brain along with increasing the levels of dopamine and serotonin which are neurotransmitters that play a critical role in mood regulation!
  • Dr. Damian Amen says that exercise leads to a better quality of sleep which further reduces stress
  • It helps calm the nervous system
  • Brain health: Regular exercise helps increase the size of the hippocampus and strengthens the prefrontal cortex which improves brain health and also to deal with stress-related shrinkage! This prevents neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline!
  • Social aspect: Exercising as a group would give that extra social factor which is critical for mental health and helps with stress.
  • Stress resilience: Regular exercise trains the stress response system in our body to be more resilient. It also helps with the growth of new nerve cells and strengthens the connection between brain cells further improving stress resilience.

Note: The majority of people who exercise sleep well which adds to the stress relieving part. People who exercise regularly are 40% less likely to experience insomnia.

Consistent exercise is a game changer: Regular and consistent workouts would have long-lasting effects on stress management. If a 10-minute walk could make a difference, imagine what consistent workouts would do.

How does exercise affect fear and self-confidence?

Fear:

When a human is exposed to a threatening event, several physiological changes happen in the body which triggers the stress response and puts our body in a fight or flight mode.

  • Regular exercise can desensitize the body to the stress response, making it less responsive to fear triggers!

This makes a huge difference and people remain calm in such situations.

  • Enhanced mental clarity: People who exercise regularly have better mental clarity and focus which helps them deal with fear
  • Enhanced self-awareness: Exercising is like practicing dealing with mental and physical problems. We will be more aware of our mental and physical limits. 

Self-confidence:

The progress we make in our fitness journey gives a sense of efficacy which leads to improved belief in oneself in dealing with life problems.

Self-belief can go a long way in a person’s life. Looking good also helps boost one’s sense of well-being!

  • Exercise also builds discipline and mental toughness. Overcoming and breaking limits month over month in our fitness journey will improve our self-confidence.
  • Regular exercise also improves neuroplasticity which comes with improved problem-solving and decision making which improves self-confidence further.

Here are a couple more books that talk about self-confidence:

  • Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers 
  • The Confidence Gap: A Revolutionary Approach to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Achieving Your Goals by Russ Harris 

How does exercise affect motivation?

Desire for pleasure and the fear of pain are the two things driving us. 

In simple terms, people fear discomfort and this is the major block for any motivation you have left in you. 

The fitness journey makes us realize that discomfort is our friend and getting away from the comfort zone fosters mental growth. This mindset supports motivation

  • As new brain cells grow in the hippocampus, it helps with memory and cognitive function
  • It also helps with shifting and focusing attention which is essential for life.
  • Creates a positive feedback loop that reinforces motivation.

Recommendations:

Moderate:

  • 30 minutes 3-4 times a week
  • 10-minute walk breaks often during the day!

Fit:

  • 30 minutes or moderate exercise every day

Superfit:

  • 60 minutes 5 days a week

AUTHOR SECTION

Sai Subramaniam The digital Hope

Written by Sai Subramaniam

Sai has over 5 years of experience writing about mental health and productivity. He shares his thoughts about love, life, and business in this blog. His goal is to help people become the best version of themselves and is guided by experts in the psychology and mental health field to help educate everyone about lifestyle and productivity


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