If you are reading this blog you most likely know what you are doing when it comes to exercise. Whether you are a seasoned veteran of Pilates or new to the practice you obviously recognize the benefits of having a fitness routine. What you might not know is that you are getting more than you bargained for and it’s a great added bonus! Your Pilates practice is also benefiting your mental health and boosting your lifestyle.
So if the summer has gotten you out of your routine or you are being pulled in multiple directions keep in mind that you are not only missing a key component of your fitness routine, but a chance to boost your mood and get a healthy dose of those feel good hormones.
Your workout routine has a direct impact on your mental health! Each year studies show that exercise and outdoor activities improve psychological well-being. From reducing depression and anxiety to improving concentration and memory; exercise has many benefits. Being a part of something meaningful and pleasurable, such as participating in a Pilates class, can help calm your fight or flight stress response system and create a feeling of well-being and belonging. In addition, several lines of research suggest that exercise increases serotonin function in the human body. In the United Kingdom the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which works on behalf of the National Health Service and makes recommendations on treatments according to the best available evidence, recommends treating mild clinical depression with various strategies including exercise rather than antidepressants. Although the United States equivalent is not as bold in their recommendations of non-pharmaceuticals there is growing consensus and research that supports using exercise as a way to decrease mental health symptoms.
When our bodies are worked through physical activity they release chemicals, including oxytocin, endorphins and adrenaline. These chemicals add a boost to our mood and energy. Another key neurotransmitter necessary for optimal health is serotonin. It’s important to acknowledge that our mood starts in our gut not in our brain. Approximately 90 percent of our serotonin- needed for happiness, relaxation and overall mood stabilization - begins in our gut. Gut health is critical for both physical and emotional health. So don’t forget to add nutrition into the equation when looking at your health and lifestyle. A common contributor to mental health conditions such as irritability, depression, anxiety and ADHD, (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), is a poor diet.
The mind and body are directly related. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The WHO states that “there is no health without mental health.” For optimal health it’s important to view yourself as a whole person in both mind and body. As you continue on your wellness journey embrace the added benefits of what good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle will do to enhance your fitness routine and vise versa.
In the spirit of the mind-body paradigm, on a physical level, regular exercise strengthens many of the body’s systems and muscles. Many of the psychological benefits of exercise are a direct result of the physical benefits. Physical activity causes people to psychologically feel good about themselves, which improves their overall mood. For many, exercise generates improvement to their self-confidence and self-esteem, which may positively impact their socialization. The relationships fostered through exercise can bring their own benefits. Research shows that friends who engage in physical activities like exercise often encourage each other and motivate one another towards their goals. So don’t forget to grab friend or workout buddy for your next class.
Lastly, exercise works best when it is done with some level of consistency. The establishment of a good routine over time becomes habitual and makes it easier for a person to stick with their plan. So write it down and commit! (No, really, write it down). Don’t wait for motivation and jump into action. The motivation comes after you begin a program not before and is what sustains a healthy lifestyle.
As you continue to embrace and enjoy this summer, consider outings that can also serve your mind and body. Take a walk with a friend, pick up an extra class, take a 10-minute nature walk while focusing on slowing down your breath and increasing your awareness of your surroundings. Perhaps challenge yourself to meet a goal you have been considering but have not yet acted on. There is still plenty of time to embrace the freedom that summer can bring so enjoy it!
In health and happiness,
Dr. Amanda Morris