While everyone knows that exercise helps promote improved physical health, research is showing exercise to help with our emotional health as well
Not only can we lower blood pressure, combat type II diabetes, and improve our cardiovascular health with exercise, exercise has been shown to help with self-esteem, stress, anxiety, depression, memory, sleep, and our emotional well-being.
Exercise is beginning to sound like the “cure all” for all of life’s ailments. While exercise may not cure everything, research has shown that a regular exercise routine helps promote an improved quality of life.
Emotional Well Being and Quality of Life
Half full? Half Empty? How do you see it? Exercising can help you view life in a more positive way!
What does it mean that exercise improves
our emotional well-being? Emotional well-being can be defined as having more positive affect than negative affect in our thought patterns. A positive affect will result in a better mood and positive emotions, in short, life becomes more of the glass-half-full scenario where we are able to see the positive aspects of life more easily.
You may be asking yourself, so what does
a positive mental affect look/feel like? I attribute exercise as being a “lifeboat” in my own life.
A number of years ago while I was going through a divorce, I had a less than positive outlook on life. I was struggling emotionally and it felt as if there were quite a few reasons for being angry. During that time I was a fitness instructor, and while it was difficult to find the motivation to exercise, I still had to show up to teach my classes.
I remember having to show up to teach spin classes emotionally I was full of stress, anger, anxiety, and general fatigue. I walked up the stairs to the spin room wondering how I was going to get through the next 5 minutes, let alone a spin class.
I entered the spin class with a feeling that
my world was crashing in. I quickly began to realize that after a few minutes of class I felt great! Upon completion of the class, I had an overwhelming feeling that life was going to work out okay.
Post-exercise I began to have the feeling that there wasn’t anything in life that I couldn’t handle. My attitude had completely changed! In a matter of 60 minutes, my attitude changed from negative to positive. It wasn’t on just one occasion that this phenomenon happened, it was every time I exercised!
Statistically speaking most people in the United States will face divorce, financial distress, loss of a loved one, or any other number of life-altering events which can significantly impact one’s emotions, how do we choose to deal with those events and emotions?
Not only does exercise help improve our physical health but exercise improves our mental health and outlook on life in general! Then why, can it be so difficult to find the motivation to exercise sometimes? Not that I have all of the answers, but sometimes simply shifting our perspective and the reasons for exercising can make a tremendous difference in our level of motivation.
Accepting that regular exercise is essential to maintaining an improved quality of life and finding ways to make regular exercise part of our routine can truly enhance and change our sense of well-being.
A research study by Nezlek et al. (2018) found that people that enjoyed running (recreational runners) who ran approximately 2 miles per day for a 3-month period experienced an improved sense of well-being.
The study directly correlated the improved
sense of well-being with the frequency of running and the distance run, where the frequency of running was a better indicator of well-being.
Well-being in this study was measured as self-esteem, life satisfaction, self-efficacy, meaning in life, and affect. Of the 244 participants in this study, the frequency of exercise (i.e. the number of times per week they ran) directly correlated to an improved sense of well-being.
Research by Raedeke (2007) concluded that not all individuals gain the same psychological benefits from all exercise settings, the affective response to exercise may be in part due to how one perceives the exercising and if they get enjoyment from performing the task.
Exercise that promotes personal enjoyment will lead to a greater positive affect response. Although there are many amazing benefits to exercise it is important to find an exercise routine that has some level of personal enjoyment, what is right for one person may not be right for another. Raedeke (2007) showed that the affect experienced during exercise is a good predictor of future engagement in that activity.
In other words, participate in exercise choices that make you feel good. What may be right for one person may not be right for you. Take time to understand how you feel before, during, and after exercise, the process should elevate your mood and feelings.
If you aren’t loving exercise try something new: rock climbing, hula-hooping, dance lessons, pickle-ball, water aerobics, kayaking. There are plenty of reasons both physically and emotionally to exercise, find the type(s) of physical activity that you enjoy, that you can and will participate in on a regular basis and do it!
The more frequently you exercise the better! Reap the rewards of a better quality of life and improved sense of well-being through exercise!
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Nezlek, J. B., Cypryanska, M., Cypryanski, P., Chlebosz, K., Jenczylik, K., Sztachanska, J., &
Zalewska, A. M. (2018). Within-person relationships between recreational running and
psychological well-being. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 40, 146-152.
Raedeke, T. D. (2007). The relationship between enjoyment and affective response to exercise.
Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 19, 105-115.