3 mental health benefits you get from exercise:

Caitlin Andrews - Millennial Milk

Are you looking for a way to boost your productivity? You can stop flipping through the App Store for the latest productivity apps. Although these apps can be a great solution, you may find that the answer is as simple as good old-fashioned exercise.

There are many reasons that you should be regularly exercising. Being physically active can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It strengthens your heart muscle, lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow. Exercise benefits aren’t limited to physical health. Research shows that exercise also improves mental health!

3 mental health benefits you get from exercise:

1. Improve Concentration

Are you having a hard time staying focused? Take a quick exercise break! There’s a little park close by my office so when I’m on my lunch break I go for a walk outside. Whenever I’m having a hard time focusing, the exercise and fresh air do wonders for snapping me back on track. I come back refreshed and ready to get back to work. If I can’t go outside, I’ll get up from my desk and walk around the office a bit. Even a little bit of exercise is beneficial and can help me focus.

How it works:

Exercise increases blood flow in your body. This means increased blood flow to your brain. More blood flow to the brain helps to sharpen awareness. An increase in physical activity can actually improve your mental health and allow you to concentrate when you need it.

2. Relieve Stress and Anxiety

When you’re stressed out or fighting anxiety, it can be difficult to be productive. Exercise is a natural way to relieve stress and anxiety. Stress can cause physical discomfort, such as tense muscles that hurt your back, face, and shoulders. It can cause headaches, nausea and stomach problems. Regular physical activity can relax your muscles and ease the tension in your body.

How it works:

Focusing on the exercise can help draw your attention away from the things that are giving you anxiety. Aside from relieving physical tension, your body releases endorphins during exercise. Endorphins are structurally similar to morphine and act as your body’s natural painkillers. They also bring about feelings of euphoria and overall well-being. When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, the endorphins released during exercise can help to relax and calm you.

3. Increase Energy Level

You would think that exercise would have the opposite effect. We’ve all been there. You’re tired and the last thing you feel like doing is working out. It seems easier to hit the snooze button and skip your morning workout in exchange for more sleep. You may think you’re too tired to exercise, but working out can actually boost your energy level.

How it Works:

Exercise improves your body’s ability to transfer glucose and oxygen. Physical activity strengthens the heart muscle and circulation. This increases your energy level.

Simple ways to work exercise into your day when you’re pressed for time:

  1. Swap out your office chair for an exercise ball
  2. Get up and stretch every half hour or so when you’re working at your desk
  3. Start the morning with a yoga routine to relieve stress and tension
  4. Go for a brisk walk or quick jog during your lunch break, before or after work
  5. Do squat thrusts for a simple, full body workout that doesn’t require much space or time
  6. Get a fitbit or try out an exercise app that will help you track your progress
Pro Tip: Get your co-workers involved! If you have trouble getting motivated at work to get up and move, partner up with a co-worker to fit some exercise into your break. This will help hold you accountable and give you motivation.

Ready to Kick it Up a Notch?

If you’re living a sedentary lifestyle or working long hours in an office where you spend the majority of your time in front of a computer screen, then any little bit of physical activity that you can work into your day will be beneficial. However, someone that stretches in front of their desk occasionally won’t see the same physical and mental health benefits of someone that is involved in a more demanding exercise routine, such as high intensity workouts. Higher levels of physical activity can contribute to your long term health, increasing your productivity in the long run.

If you’re ready to kick up your exercise routine you may find yourself overwhelmed trying to figure out where to start. There are a wide variety of physical activities to choose from and a never ending supply of advertisements and articles telling you which one you should try. Exercise is never a one-size-fits all solution and you need to find what works best for you.

One place to get started is your city’s website. Some cities list a calendar of events that include activities geared to get you out and active with your community, such as a dance classes, walkathons and races. You can also find a directory of local businesses, including gyms, fitness centers and dance studios. Be wary of gyms that offer things like free pizza nights. They may not be concerned with your health and could just be after your membership dues by keeping you coming back with incentives that seem counter to your fitness goals.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s a good idea to get physically active. Among other benefits, you can increase your productivity with exercise. Stick with a routine and try not to compare yourself to others. Exercise when you can, but don’t overexert yourself by trying to do too much too soon. Increase your physical activity levels in increments and you’ll be reaping the benefits in no time.