How exercise improves your mood and helps you manage anxiety and depression. And win a FlipBelt, a great way to carry your cash, phone and more!
We often focus far too much on the physical effects on exercise and not nearly enough on the mental and emotional effects. You already know I am a huge proponent of physical activity and I want to encourage you to get moving any way you can. But this really isn’t about achieving some false ideal of feminine perfection (or masculine perfection!). Looking like you are in shape feels good, of course. It gives you a bit more confidence when you like what you see in the mirror. But FEELING like you are in shape feels even better, and that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the mirror at all. Almost everything in life depends on our mental state. How we approach our day, how we handle frustrations and setbacks, how we connect with other people. Exercise and movement improves our mental and emotional well-being; why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that?
You know it’s true. And you know there are about a zillion studies to back this up. I am not going to sit here and lecture you about how physical activity boosts blood flow to the brain, increases endorphins, blah blah blah. I am not the Mayo Clinic, I am simply someone who has discovered just how powerful exercise is. Do I like having muscles? Yup. Do I like that I am in better shape now than I was in my 20’s? You bet. But what keeps me returning to exercise daily is how I feel, both physically and emotionally. It’s not about achieving a better body. I could do squats until the cows come home and I will always have a flat, flabby butt. But those same squats that don’t appear to do a single thing for my backside do help me manage my mood better than anything else I’ve tried.
After my third child was born, I really struggled with anxiety and even some depression. That’s when I began running, and a few years later, I took up CrossFit too. I still have some anxiety at times, which is par for the course for a woman approaching menopause. Add three kids, a busy husband, and a fun-but-busy career on top of that and it’s no wonder I feel that panicky sensation in my chest some days. Every time I feel that way, a run, a walk, or a hard workout makes me feel immeasurably better. Every. Single. Time. In fact, I’ve noticed that the days when I really don’t want to go to CrossFit are the days I need it most. And those are the days when it has the most positive effect on me. It almost feels like magic.
That improved mood lasts all day long too. A few weeks ago, I had a terrible sleep and woke up feeling awful. Sluggish, irritable, and more than a little blue. I felt unmotivated and as if I wouldn’t be able to do any work at all. After the kids left for school, I knew I had to shake it up so I forced myself out for a run. And came back feeling fantastic and ready to tackle the huge pile of work on my desk. It wasn’t until about 7pm that the lack of sleep caught up with me again. Amazing, isn’t it?
Starting a brand new exercise program can feel like a monumental challenge, but you don’t have to run miles or lift hundreds of pounds to benefit from physical activity. A brisk 15 minute walk can calm your nerves and improve your mood. You already know it’s true, you don’t need me to tell you this. But maybe you need me to motivate you a little bit?
So in the spirit of motivation, I am giving away 2 FlipBelts (2 different winners). A friend of mine recommended them for running but they are really good for any sort of exercise. I hate having things in my hands when I am walking or running, but I hate having something around my waist even more. The nice thing about these belts is that they stay nice and snug around your hips as you move. I love mine as it allows me to take my phone, my keys, and a little bit of money on my long runs. It doesn’t move at all, it doesn’t ride up and I don’t even notice that it’s there. Such a simple design but so incredibly useful. It even has a hook to secure your keys, so you know they won’t get lost.
The other day, I planned on hitting the grocery store on my way home from my run. I popped $25 in the little pocket in the waistband of my workout pants, thinking it would be secure. Lo and behold, it was gone when I got to the store, having somehow worked its way out. Bet that wouldn’t have happened if I’d made sure to put it into my FlipBelt!