Photo Cred: Nathan Cowley

Exercise has long been touted as a way to maintain physical health and fitness, much to our lazy souls dismay, but recent research has also shown that it can have a powerful impact on mental health. For women in particular, exercise has been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety and depression, and increase overall well-being. I know it sounds like horrible news but you don’t need to place so much pressure on the idea. You just need to make movement a fun priority that you look forward to and not dread. In this article, we’ll explore the mental health benefits of exercise for women and provide tips for incorporating physical activity into daily routines no matter how busy, because you matter. 

How Exercise Affects the Brain

Before we dive into the mental health benefits of exercise, it’s helpful to understand how physical activity affects the brain. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which are chemicals that can boost mood and reduce stress. Exercise has also been shown to increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth and maintenance of brain cells. BDNF has been linked to a variety of mental health benefits, including improved mood, reduced anxiety, and enhanced cognitive function. Things that many of us moms complain about and struggle with. 

Exercise and Mood

Numerous studies have shown that exercise can have a positive impact on mood. In fact, one study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise can have an immediate and significant effect on mood. Yes that even includes walking with your mom friends around the mall while you window shop even, movement can be doing something you already enjoy. Other studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety over time. It is also a great opportunity to connect with others like yourself, like a moms walking group maybe! 

One reason that exercise may improve mood is that it provides a sense of accomplishment and boosts self-esteem or helps us connect with our community. When we set and achieve fitness goals no matter how small, we feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that can translate to other areas of our lives. Additionally, exercise can provide a much-needed break from the stressors of daily life, allowing us to clear our minds and focus on the present moment. If you exercise with friends this even gives you something to truly look forward to each and every week rather than dread. 

Photo Cred: Jess Bailey Design

Tips for Incorporating Exercise into Daily Routines

If you’re looking to improve your mental health through exercise, here are a few tips for getting started:

  1. Start small: If you’re new to exercise, don’t feel like you need to jump into a rigorous workout routine right away. Start with small, achievable goals like taking a 10-minute walk each day, and gradually work your way up.
  2. Find an activity you enjoy: Exercise doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym or running on a treadmill. Find an activity that you enjoy, whether it’s dancing, hiking, or swimming, and incorporate it into your routine.
  3. Make it social: Exercise can be a great way to connect with others and build community. Consider joining a fitness class or starting a walking group with friends.
  4. Set realistic goals: When setting fitness goals, be sure to make them achievable and realistic. Setting unattainable goals can lead to frustration and discouragement.
  5. Be consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to reaping the mental health benefits of exercise. Try to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, whether it’s a morning yoga practice or an after-work jog.

Exercise is a powerful tool for improving mental health, and women in particular can benefit from its mood-boosting and anxiety-reducing effects. By incorporating physical activity into daily routines, setting achievable goals or even no goals at all other than to just do it for a set amount of time each day, and finding activities that you enjoy, you can improve your mental well-being and lead a healthier, happier life. This is also a great opportunity or chance to reach out in your mom community and see if anyone else has similar goals. Meet up, hold each other accountable and learn to love life again through a healthy relationship with movement!