Why Exercise Is So Good For You - Both Mentally and Physically

I used to hate to exercise. I could never bring myself to enjoy the experience, and even doing various sports was often fun for a time, but then gradually became the bane of my existence. I never was able to focus and direct my attention and energy into anything related to exercise. I would go to the gym with my dad and immediately decide that I hated it because I wasn’t able to do as much as my dad or because I was embarrassed of my own lackluster abilities, afraid that other people were laughing at me.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I really began to get proper exercise. At first, when school started, it was just long walks around Boston with a friend of mine. We would sometimes walk for hours, trekking all across the city. I didn’t realize how in-shape I was getting until my parents came to visit and exclaimed that I looked thinner and more toned. It made me happy. Not because they said I was thin, but because I hadn’t even noticed that I was more in-shape, and it was through doing something that I really enjoyed.

Unfortunately, when it started to get colder, my friend and I stopped going for those hours-long walks. We would still go in the morning sometimes, but what used to be an every-weekend (and sometimes more!) kind of occurrence became a once-every-few-weeks event. But I knew that I needed and wanted to find a way to exercise regularly. So I started going to the gym.

I had loathed going to the gym for a very long time. I didn't even step foot in the facility until a week after the second semester started. But now I go every day, and I LOVE IT.

Going to the gym, getting exercise, working up a sweat, all of those things are insanely helpful to me, both for my body and my mind. When I go to the gym, I get to see what I can do, and I get to work on building up my strength and stamina, and it’s really empowering to see. There have been an immense amount of studies conducted on the positive effects of exercise on mental health, and any quick search will bring up reputable websites full of information on the subject. For example, Mayo Clinic speaks about the effects of exercise on anxiety and depression, explaining that “regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins…and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being…[and] taking your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts.”

Going to the gym isn’t for everyone, however. For example, my best friend refuses to work out in the gym. Instead, she goes for runs in the mornings. And that’s totally fine! There are plenty of ways to get exercise, and not everything works for all people. Even finding little ways to exercise can be super helpful, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking a bike to work instead of a car or the train. Finding what’s right for you and what you enjoy is all that matters, and just remember that it’s totally ok to try new things and to test out different sports or classes or methods. If you’re super nervous, maybe try to bring a buddy along. You do you, and don’t forget to have fun!