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By Letshego Zulu


The psychology of exercise

Regular exercise brings about significant positive changes not only in your physical health but also in your mental and emotional well-being.

Why do you exercise? Do you work out for fitness or because it’s a trend? What motivates you to get up every morning and work out?

If you are not exercising, why not? We all know the physical benefits of exercising. But, are you aware of its psychological benefits?

Fitness can transform you mentally and emotionally. Exercise does not have to take up a large part of your life for you to experience the benefits. Just including 10 minutes of exercise into your daily routine a few times a week can make a difference in how you feel, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Since October is Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve outlined the most popular benefits that will encourage you to work out:

Improves self esteem: When you exercise regularly, you achieve your desired body goals. This will increase your confidence and self-esteem. When you feel good about yourself, your perspective on life changes. Being fit makes you satisfied and happier. When this happens, you start putting yourself out in the world.

A man taking a break at the gym. Picture: iStock
A man taking a break at the gym. Picture: iStock

Helps combat stress: Exercising also reduces stress. People with anxiety should exercise more. When you perform physical activities, your brain stimulates the production of neuro-hormones, like norepinephrine.

Exercise increases your heart rate, which helps you combat multiple heart diseases. People who hit the gym leave sweaty and happy. It has something to do with cognitive functioning. So remember, whenever you are going through a stressful event, unplug yourself and work out for 30 minutes. It will clear your head and your thoughts.

Boosts IQ and learning capacity: It might sound vague, but fasten your seat belt for this one. It has been proved students who exercise have a better learning capacity than those who do not.

When you exercise, it improves your overall cognitive functioning, which includes your memory and learning capacity. Practical tests were conducted on people and the results favoured this theory. So, if you want to do well academically or in your work life, you should start exercising.

Middle-aged woman doing weight exercises for upper body. Picture: iStock
Middle-aged woman doing weight exercises for upper body. Picture: iStock

Improves your social relations: Social life is tricky and depends on your personality and connections. When you are happy and content with yourself, your confidence rises. When that happens, you participate more in group events.

All this happens because you feel more sociable and presentable. Although feeling confident only when you’re fit is not always true, you can’t deny its relation. Working out does take a toll on you, but in a positive form.

Better sleep cycle: This benefit is a definite game-changer for us. As fitness practitioners, we always tell our clients to strive for a healthy lifestyle.

This not only improves their cardiac health, but will also go a long way in preventing medical problems. An improved sleep cycle is the biggest benefit of a healthy lifestyle. When you exercise, your body temperature also rises.

Exercise has many calming effects on your body and mind and can regulate your circadian rhythms, which are physical, mental and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle.

An improved sleep cycle cures insomnia and anxiety disorders. It also makes you a calm person. Imagine waking up happy every day after seven or eight hours of sleep. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, that dream can be your reality now.

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