Updated: Sep 27
Exercise is a universal language, a timeless ritual that transcends boundaries. It doesn't discriminate based on age, gender, or background. It doesn't require a fancy gym membership or expensive equipment. This readily accessible tool has the potential to transform not only our physical well-being but our mental health as well, offering a path to inner harmony and well-being that's within reach for all.
One of the most fascinating ways exercise affects our mental well-being is by regulating the action of neurotransmitters, those tiny chemical messengers in our brains responsible for regulating our mood and emotions. When we exercise, our brain releases endorphins—chemicals that help reduce pain and trigger feelings of happiness. Exercise also stimulates the release of serotonin, which can help regulate mood and appetite, and dopamine (often called the "reward neurotransmitter"), which enhances motivation.
Beyond the biochemical changes occurring within our brains, several studies have shown that exercise is a powerful tool to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety and reduce stress levels in the body. Engaging in regular physical activity can also promote happiness, boost self-esteem, and improve our overall quality of life.
Here are some ideas to incorporate exercise into your daily routine and make it an integral part of your life:
- Start small, dream big: Embracing exercise doesn't mean you have to run a marathon within the next month or master a complex yoga pose in your first session. Begin setting achievable goals that align with your current fitness level, then gradually increase the intensity as your stamina improves. This approach not only ensures a sustainable routine but also boosts your confidence as you accomplish each milestone.
- Discover your passion: The key to making exercise a lifelong habit is to find what you love. When you're passionate about your exercise routine, it won't feel like a chore; it becomes an intricate part of your daily life. Whether you prefer the atmosphere of team sports, the concentration of partial marts, or the solitude of long-distance running, there are countless options available. Try different choices and select what you enjoy the most.
- Accountability and community: Find support that aligns with your goals, such as a workout buddy, a fitness class with a motivating instructor, or an online community. People with similar aspirations can offer you the encouragement and the extra push you may need to persist on those days when your spirit is down.
As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Decide your goal, and choose the activity you enjoy the most. As you progress, you will begin experiencing the enormous benefits of practicing exercise, including better physical and mental health and an overall improvement in your quality of life. Every little step counts. Are you ready to lace up your sneakers?
Working out boosts brain health, article in the American Psychological Association (APA) website
The Truth Behind ‘Runner’s High’ and Other Mental Benefits of Running, article by David Linden, Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins University website