You can work on your emotional wellbeing by meditating, journaling, and reciting affirmations. But, there is also a physical component to your emotional health, and it often goes ignored. If you want to enhance your emotional wellbeing, include exercise in your self-care routine.
How Exercise Enhances Emotional Wellbeing
If you live with depression, exercise is a great way to reduce symptoms. One study found that just 12 weeks of regular physical activity can subdue depressive symptoms, including internalizing problems, for up to 12 months. According to this study, exercise may be as beneficial as psychotherapy or pharmacological treatment for helping with depression (What Is Emotional Health And How to Improve It).
Exercise also builds emotional resilience. When faced with psychosocial stressors, individuals who exercised showed less of a reduction in positive affect compared with individuals who didn’t exercise. In other words, exercise helps protect against acute stress response by helping to sustain a positive mood.
How to Start An Exercise Program for Emotional Wellbeing
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Instead, start small and build up. Start by moving your body for five minutes at a time, three times a week or more. Then increase your activity each week by five to 15 minutes. Finally, increase the number of days per week or number of times per day that you exercise.
Commit to exercising. You wouldn’t skip a day of taking anti-depressant medication. You wouldn’t miss a therapy session. So, wake up every morning and set the intention of moving your body. View exercise as a necessary component for sustaining your emotional wellbeing.
Ask a friend to join you in your exercise routine. When you have someone else to hold you accountable, to encourage you, and to exercise with you, you will be more likely to do it.
It really doesn’t matter what type of activity you choose for your exercise program. Do what feels good, what you enjoy doing. Go for a walk. Work in your garden. Play a game of tennis. Play outside with your kids. Go dancing. If the activity is something that you already like, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
How Much Exercise is Enough?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, adults should engage in moderate intensity physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week.
Thirty minutes, five times a week may sound overwhelming. But think of it like anything else that’s good for you. Doing what you’re capable of doing is better than doing nothing at all. So start with what you are able to do with the goal of eventually reaching the 150 minutes a week guideline.
Exercise to Enhance Physical and Mental Health
I’ve been a runner for years. I’ve run during my darkest depressive episodes and I’ve run when I’ve been seemingly depression-free. What I know from personal experience and what science supports is that exercise enhances emotional wellbeing.
Of course, exercise improves your physical health. But, by reducing symptoms of depression and building emotional resilience, exercise enhances emotional wellbeing, too. So, start to include physical activity in your daily self-care routine.
- Childs E and de Wit H (2014). Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults. Front Physiol 5(161):1-7.
- Craft LL and Perna FM (2004). Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 6(3):104-111.
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