Practicing physical activities acts as medicine for psychological health and improves your stress resistance. You don’t need to be a champion, anyone can work out.
Ancient Romans used to say “mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body) and this is true!
Several studies demonstrate this, and now I will tell you how and why:
One of the mechanisms that make fitness improve the psyche is physiological.
It has been demonstrated, in fact, that through sports we automatically produce endorphins: a neurotransmitter produced by the nervous system that works as an anti-depressant.
Additionally, endorphins raise pain resistance and give us a general feeling of wellness and euphoria.
That’s the way sometimes we enter in the gym very tired and leave full of energy with a big smile on our faces!
We also have directly psychological reasons that can explain the positive effects of fitness on our mental health.
Doing a workout, especially a group training session, helps to distract us from anxious thoughts, stopping the mental rumination and keeping the concentration exclusively focused on the fitness experience.
This “distracting” mechanism seems very close to meditation where we bring the attention to our breathing (or through the repetition of a mantra) and move the mind from daily thoughts, emptying ourselves from negative thoughts for a while.
Meditation and fitness can seem two very different realities, but this is not true; think about the various martial arts that have mixed into a single discipline through physical and spiritual training.
Or also cycling or running which acts like magic for its followers because it lets one completely disconnect from the daily routine and bring back balance and internal peace.
Every sport and activity can do this if practised with regularity and passion.
Motivation and Psychological Distress
To conclude, practicing exercise lets us face our limits and potentials. Doing fitness and obtaining gradual results supports and increases motivation and self-efficacy (the perception of dominating personal goals and having the tools to reach them).
Should we consider sport as a sort of therapy?
Actually, the psychological benefit of fitness is demonstrated and documented, but it also depends on if the person is motivated to practice physical activity constantly.
Sometimes this is not possible. People with a depressive situation, for example, can find it hard to invest their time and energy into any activity because of their emotional situation. But for sure, after appropriate psychological therapy, sport and fitness can be the right springboard for a happy and healthy life!
Watch the video below where group exercise instructor, Andrea Giovannini, shares how physical fitness and group exercise affects our mental and physical health and also gives us a peek into a BODYSTEP™ class.
Group Exercise Instructor
Fitness First Community Clubs