NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Taylor Hayes

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Bridging the Gap: Exercise for and Physical and Mental Health

GettyImages-1157981826A question I get asked frequently is, “Why are you interning for a fitness center when your major is social work?” The first thing people think of when they hear social work is working at the Department of Child Services, and being in a fitness center doesn’t seem to make sense. But social work is so much bigger than that, and it continues to expand into new places, such as fitness and sports.

Linking Physical and Mental Health

Exercise has many benefits for your physical health, but what about benefits to your mental health? In my own experience, I feel that exercising has an effect on my mood. The less I exercise throughout the week, the more sluggish and tired I become. However, the more I exercise throughout the week, the more energized and content I feel.

Now don’t get me wrong—I am not one of those people who loves to work out. I know that may come as a surprise, but I don’t look forward to working out. It’s something that I know I need to do in order to keep myself healthy, but I don’t particularly enjoy it. I literally count down the minutes until my workout is over. But as I said, I notice the difference in myself when I’m not working out vs. when I am working out. Exercising doesn’t have to look the same for everyone, either. Find something that you enjoy doing like hiking or swimming and incorporate that into what a “regular” workout might look like.

How It Works (Out)

Numerous studies back up the claims that exercising improves mental health. Aerobic exercises such as swimming, cycling, and jogging have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. The improvements in mood are, in part, due to the exercise-induced blood circulation to the brain. Exercise can offer other benefits that help improve your mental health, such as the opportunity to get more social interaction. A smile, a greeting, or a small conversation can help improve your mood or even change the outlook of your entire day. You might even meet a gym buddy who will keep you accountable when you don’t feel like working out.

Working out can also help you gain more confidence overall. When you meet your exercise goals and start to see changes in your appearance, chances are your confidence will build as well. Exercise also gives you a healthy coping mechanism when you are feeling down. Have you been dwelling on something stressful? Take it out on a few medicine ball slams!

Find the Balance

Mental health and physical health are more intertwined than most people realize. Finding a balance between the two can help your overall well-being. It also helps justify why I am interning here at NIFS (lol).

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This blog was written by Taylor Hayes. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: wellness exercise as medicine emotional mental health