Mental Check In
woman feeling tired, sad, sluggish on couch

Get Up and Move: Being Physically Inactive Affects Your Mind and Mood

If you’ve been feeling extra stressed out or even sluggish lately, it might not be your brain to blame.

In fact, it might be your lack of physical activity that’s hurting your mental well-being.

Moving our bodies doesn’t just help with physical health. It’s also vital for maintaining and improving our mental health, too.

If you’ve become more sedentary lately, these are the ways it might be affecting your brainpower — and why it’s so important for both mind and mood for you to get up and move.

Trouble Managing Stress

On a regular basis, many people are relatively okay with handling stress as it comes their way. I mean, think of all the ways you’ve dealt with anxiety over the years.

Unfortunately, without regular physical activity, our brain releases the stress hormone, cortisol. I don’t think I have to tell you that increased levels of cortisol can amplify our response to stress and make it incredibly difficult to manage our emotions effectively.

Struggling to Solve Problems

Did you know that physical activity can improve our cognitive functions? Getting up can improve your attention span, problem-solving skills, memory, and even your information-processing speed. Think of that walk around the neighborhood kind of like a RAM upgrade for your brain.

In the reverse, that means that a lack of physical activity can slow your brain down — leaving you on the struggle bus when you’re trying to brainstorm solutions.

Trouble Finding the Silver Lining

Have you turned into a Debbie Downer lately? If you’re constantly envisioning the worst-case scenario when you used to be able to see the bright side, it might be due to inactivity.

Exercise often helps people take the edge off, so to speak. It provides an outlet for you to release negative emotions by literally letting you work out emotions through deep breathing and re-channeling emotions through movements.

By not getting up to move, you’re just letting all that negative energy stay bottled up inside.

Self-Depreciating Thought Patterns

Physical exercise often leads to that after-workout euphoria. You know what I’m talking about: you feel strong and on top of the world, plus it’s pretty cool that you conquered that challenging workout, right?

On the flip side, a lack of physical exercise has an equally opposite effect. By doing nothing, it can often leave you down in the dumps concerning self-esteem and image. All those negative thoughts become a never-ending cycle that can be hard to break.

Higher Risk of Depression and Anxiety

Of course, all of these things together should spell a pretty clear picture. A lack of physical movement can leave you feeling negative, super stressed, and even foggy.

It should come as no surprise, then, that inactivity leaves you at a higher risk of depression and anxiety.

Exercise results in the body releasing feel-good chemicals directly to our brain. When we don’t get enough physical activity, we’re operating on a deficiency in these important hormones. It leaves us feeling more anxious and depressed.

The good news? You don’t have to spend hours at the gym pumping iron or running on a treadmill to fight against it. Unless, of course, that’s more your speed — then go for it!

But really, all you need to do is get up and move — and move often. You can start implementing a standing desk, or go for a walk around the block.

Kat Sweet

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