Five Ways Exercise Keeps Your Spirits Up During Tough Times

By Kate Harveston – April 3, 2020

As the nation suffers through another week of COVID-19 social distancing, you probably noticed a lot of changes. A simple trip to the grocery now entails plastic gloves and copious amounts of hand sanitizer. Your kids started their “summer vacation” months early, and many of you can add “homeschool teacher” to your resume.

One of the best ways to lift your spirits during these troubled times is by exercising. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a dime to get a good sweat going. Read on to discover the benefits of working out during tough times.

1. It Provides an Instant Self-Esteem Boost

Right now, you might not feel the best about yourself. If you gave in to your urge to binge on ice cream during your most recent Netflix marathon, go easy on yourself. Getting cut off from your typical support network is enough to send anyone into a tailspin.

When you work out, you focus on a concrete activity you can control — which provides a needed sense of certainty in uncertain times. You also send yourself the mental message that you are benefiting your health with every repetition you complete.

2. It Helps Reduce Stress

Left untreated, chronic stress can lead to adverse health outcomes, including an increased risk of heart disease. Too much pressure can lead to making unwise choices, such as overindulging in empty calories or looking for refuge in alcohol. Elevated levels of stress hormones further complicate matters by making you crave processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients.

Exercise helps to ease anxiety. It lowers the levels of stress hormones in your blood, as long as you keep your workouts to less than an hour. Working out for 60 minutes or longer dumps more cortisol into your bloodstream, which can have adverse effects. You don’t have to get your entire workout in one 30- to 45-minute session. You can take a 10- to15-minute break to move your body several times per day.

3. It Provides Structure

Right now, you might feel like you’re adrift on a stormy sea, particularly if you recently lost your job or switched to telecommuting. Exercise helps provide structure to your day. For example, if you know you do 15 minutes of yoga when your alarm goes off in the morning, you won’t feel as lost if you suddenly aren’t rushing out to your commute.

Exercise also makes the ideal wind-down activity after work. If you’re new to telecommuting, you might find it challenging to know when to unplug. If you establish a daily 10-minute walk after work, it helps you to separate your family time from the rest of your day.

4. It Strengthens Your Immune System

Working out can boost your immune system, something everyone can use during these days of plastic gloves and hand sanitizer shortages. One way exercise can boost immune function is by expelling bacteria and viruses from your lungs and nasal passages more quickly. If these germs spend less time in your body, they can’t infect you as readily.

Furthermore, working out increases the levels of antibodies and white blood cells you have circulating in your body. These scan for invaders and isolate them, destroying them before they can harm you. Exercising also increases your body temperature temporarily. This effect mimics a fever, which can also help to kill unwanted germs.

5. It Can Relieve Insomnia

If you’re like many people right now, you probably have trouble sleeping. It’s understandable, especially if you’re worried that the recently approved stimulus package will barely touch your unpaid bills. You don’t want to turn to alcohol, as tempting as it is — it will disrupt your cycle.

Exercising makes it more likely that you’ll sleep well at night. You can see this phenomenon at work in children. Nearly every parent has a less trying time putting their child down for a nap after they took them outside to play for a while. Why not put this principle to work in your adult life, too?

Manage Your Mood During Troubled Times with Exercise

Right now, you might desperately need a healthy coping mechanism. Why not lace up your shoes and go for a walk or a bike ride? Your mind and body will both thank you.

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