Why Training Is More Than Just A Positive Physically (The Mental Health Benefits of Training)
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably dealt with anxiety and overwhelm. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States – 40 million adults each year to be exact.
There are a lot of different things we can consider when we think about this number…
- Stress Management (Lack Thereof)
- Lack of Exercise
And the answer for many people is to go to the doctor and get prescribed pharmaceutical medications that provide a mask for the underlying issue for the anxiety. It treats the symptom, not the root cause. But that’s a topic for another blog. (Let me be clear: medicine is great and can be a game changer for some individuals… but in many cases, there are things that should be addressed FIRST before turning to medicine.)
For this article, I want to discuss the benefits of training in regard to mental and emotional health. The studies and research are very clear on the physical benefits of strength training… it works.
But what a lot of people don’t think about are the phycological benefits of lifting weights.
Data gathered from 33 different studies found that 2-5 days of resistance training (both heavy and light, men and women, old and young) decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression.
And it makes sense. Training helps in a multitude of ways…
You Get Stronger
Being strong isn’t just cool for being in the gym and tossing around heavy weights. And if you have some anxiety, it might not be best to be lifting too heavy too much. But being strong is an incredible benefit for longevity and enhancing your daily life. Carrying things, cleaning out the garage, lifting heavy boxes off the floor – this stuff all gets easier if you practice resistance training. Training with weights decreases risk of things like osteoporosis (bones becoming weak/brittle) because of the increase in muscle, strength and balance. All of this makes you more bulletproof for the situation’s life throws at you… making you more confident to take on challenging objectives.
Your Body Changes
One of the biggest benefits of resistance training is that it helps with body composition… training consistently will result in having more muscle and less body fat. When you look good, you feel better about yourself. They’ve actually studied this and found that more lean body mass (muscle) is associated with less feelings of anxiety and depression. A lot of people argue that you should “love yourself”no matter how much body fat you have. And I don’t disagree with this. You should love yourself… enough to want to take care of yourself to your fullest potential. Being overweight and obese is not loving yourself. Period. And research has proven that the more body fat you have, the more likely you are to have anxiety and depressive symptoms. One of the best ways to combat this is by adding in some resistance training 2-5 days per week. Having a healthy-looking physique also gives you more confidence in your relationships and can lead to having more and better sex (not just because you look better, but because your hormones are healthier), which is also associated with having less anxiety.
You Learn About Yourself – Pushing Your Limits
Strength training forces you out of your comfort zone. And it’s a consistent way of getting uncomfortable. With the amount of different movements, exercises, rep ranges and modalities of strength training, you can constantly challenge your body. When you challenge yourself and overcome challenges (like adding weight/reps to exercises, mastering a new movement etc.) you feel a sense of accomplishment. This overcoming of challenges helps you in other areas of your life as well… and makes small stuff that might have stressed you out or given you anxiety seem like no big deal. What’s so great about strength training is that you can always challenge yourself in new ways. There are so many different ways to stimulate your system that you never run out of options. This makes exercise super diverse therefore you won’t ever get bored or burnt out! (As long as you’re not overdoing it and you have some intelligent programming. If you’re not sure what this looks like, click here.)
When You Exercise, Your Brain Works Better
There is a lot of research about improved cognitive function in regard to exercise. We have to realize that if cognitive function is improved, feelings of anxiety and depression will be much less likely. There have actually been studies done that show people who have some cognitive impairment of some sort in combination with high levels of anxiety are 135% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. This is pretty scary stuff. Good thing there have been studies done on exercise and how it impacts cognition. Some of the benefits of exercise on the brain include:
- Better Attention Span
- Increased Memory
- Increased Creativity
- Protection Against Dementia
- Better Decision Making
Getting that cognitive boost from exercise will help with the feelings of overwhelm and anxiety many of us feel from time to time.
Here’s one of the things you need to realize: you’re going to deal with overwhelm and anxiety in your life.
However mild or extreme, it is going to happen if you’re a human being. Taking care of yourself through resistance training and other exercise modalities is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. I see so many people who just don’t do anything at all… and they’re constantly dealing with poor mood, lack of sleep, over consumption of food/alcohol and just an overall poor lifestyle. It never fails that every single time I talk to someone who has been training for any period of time that they generally have a better sense of well-being. It’s always one of the first things people notice when they start working with me… better sleep, better mood, more energy, more sex drive etc. With that being said, exercise shouldn’t be something we obsess over. We want to have a healthy relationship with exercise and realize it is a way to enhance our life – we shouldn’t be using exercise as a punishment for things that happen in our lives or from our nutritional choices. If you are someone who isn’t doing any exercise, and feels an underlying sense of overwhelm and anxiety, start exercising. Start lifting weights. Hire a coach to help you live your best life!