The Mental Side of Fitness

Mind over matter right?

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Even the hardest of challenges can be overcome with the right mental attitude and believing you can. Show even the slightest crack in your mental armor and you’re most likely heading down the path to failure.

There is certainly no denying that our mind plays a central part in our fitness journey. However, we sometimes overlook the fact that our fitness journey has an incredible impact on our mental development.

Depression, anxiety and stress are all very real influencers in the world. I think that it’s safe to say that at one point or another we have experienced one of those mindsets. ADHD is also prevalent in the world and while most of us may not deal with it personally, we may know of someone that does or have heard stories of individuals struggling through it. More often than not, the solution is medicine. However, sometimes the “drug” that we need is a simple session in the gym (there are concerns that fitness is often overlooked as a treatment method)

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We also need to account for the obesity epidemic we are currently facing in the US. As Luisa highlighted in her soda article, 1/3 of American adults and 17% of children are obese. There is a ton of literature, studies & articles out there highlighting the connections between obesity and mental health. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by 2020 obesity will be the single biggest killer on the planet.

So how does fitness present a cure? Well lets dive into each of the issues mentioned above 1 by 1…

Depression 

Exercise can quickly elevate a person’s self-esteem which can be a gateway to climbing out of depression. You’ll release endorphins which can boost your spirits and make you feel good in its simplest form. From a more complex perspective, exercise has been proven to promote neurogenesis & new activity patterns in the brain which will lead to feelings of calm and well-being

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Stress

Speaking of endorphins, exercise releases one in particular called norepinephrine. This will aid your brain in blunting the effect of stress. Stress creates an overall state of tension in both the body and the mind. You can feel tight muscles or a clouded/tense mind that can lead to insomnia or even headaches. Exercise can help alleviate this tension by improving blood circulation and distracting our thoughts on what is stressing us out.

Anxiety 

This is sort of the side-kick of stress. It is in our nature to divert our attention to the issues at hand and sometimes those will cause a state of anxiety fueled by our thoughts. Exercise presents an escape from our situation coupled with the release of those lovely endorphins. We focus our attention on our work in the gym and divert it from the things that are affecting our mood. Win – Win!

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ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. To try and dumb it down, this is a mental disorder that affects our ability to focus and pay attention. Exercise is responsible for boosting dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels – all of which affect focus and attention (positively). Need I say more? Ok, I will. That increased blood circulation I spoke of earlier has a direct impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis communicates with several regions of the brain, including the limbic system, which controls motivation and mood; the amygdala, which generates fear in response to stress; and the hippocampus, which plays an important part in memory formation as well as in mood and motivation.

Obesity 

I think this one is pretty self explanatory. Calories in vs calories out. Increased muscle mass. Self-esteem boost. Etc, etc.

(ALARM GOES OFF) WAKE UP!!!

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Sorry, just had to make sure I didn’t lose you and I still have your attention…

In a nutshell. We need fitness in our lives. Society needs fitness. The power of exercise comes with too many pros and when properly monitored, very few cons. Our mind is a powerful/amazing gift. Fitness has the ability to not only preserve our mind but unlock it’s true power.

So if you love fitness and know firsthand of the benefits you’ve experienced, don’t be afraid to share that love with others. It just might be what they need to better their life.

 

 

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