As we wrap up Mental Health Week, I’d like to offer some insights into why including exercise can help improve overall mental health. Changes such as the nice weather (finally!), along with an increased culture surrounding niche gyms, more health-conscious places to eat, and upscale active wear lines have made working out a bit more enjoyable.
Toronto, in particular, is definitely having its moment in health culture. New spinning and training gyms such as Spinco, Soul Cycle, and Barry’s Bootcamp are popping up all over the city. Going to these gyms is more than just going for a workout, it’s an experience. With amazing amenities and even their own activewear lines, these gyms provide a curated workout experience. To pair with the increase in trendy new gyms are healthy spots to grab a bite – Kupfert & Kim, Hopscotch, and Cali Love being a few. Worried about walking around in your workout clothes after a class? Don’t. Brands such as Lululemon, Arc’teryx, and Kit and Ace design beautiful clothes that function for both activity and leisure.
However, introducing exercise into your routine doesn’t have to mean shelling out a couple hundred a month on a gym membership, or spending thousands on trendy clothes. There are many beautiful hikes and walks surrounding Toronto. There are also ride-share bikes renting at about $7 for the day. As with most things in life, you have to do what suits your body and your budget.
There are many positive benefits to living a healthier lifestyle, not only to shed a few pounds, but to feel better overall – mentally and physically. Exercising can help reduce stress, increase energy, boost your mood, and provide social support.
Stressful situations, whether due to work, school, friends, or family, can be emotionally taxing. Exercising can not only help with overall resilience to stress, but also act as an outlet for feelings such as sadness or anger. High energy forms of exercise such as running, boxing, or weight training can help get rid of those negative emotions or, at the very least, act as a distraction.
Exercising can also help to reduce stress hormones like cortisol, and increase endorphins giving you a natural boost in your mood.
Recently, a health professional asked me what my energy level in a day was out of 10. I found it to be an interesting question, because I’d never asked myself that before. If you could rate your energy level in a day out of 10, what would it be? The work grind can be exactly that, a grind, and working out at the end of a day can be very daunting. However, working out, may it be high intensity or regular low intensity exercise, can help increase your energy levels. Slowly but surely, maybe you go from a level 6 energy level to a level 8, or maybe you start realizing you don’t need that 3PM coffee break.
In our society today, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem are some of the most common issues people deal with, yet ironically, they leave individuals feeling isolated and alone. I’ve heard individuals talk about these issues in all aspects of my life – at work, with friends, with family, and especially volunteering with the Toronto Distress Centre on the 401-HELP line.
For most of these issues it takes a holistic approach to treat, with exercise being one of those components. Exercise promotes chemicals in the brain such as endorphins that improve your mood and help you to feel more relaxed.
Being part of a gym can feel like being part of a mini-community, with instructors there to challenge and support you, along with other members who are in it with you to reach their individual goals.
Outside of gyms, going for a long walk or utilizing basketball and tennis courts can lead to spending more time with friends, or even making new ones. Rec league sports such as volleyball or baseball are also popular all across the city.
Instead of going for a drink after work with a friend, try going for a big walk along the Toronto waterfront. Or, go grab some groceries and make a healthy dinner together. Tailoring your social life to include fitness and health is an easy way to start seeing changes.
My last piece of advice is this: take it one step at a time, and try not to be too hard on yourself. Introducing something new into your routine is always going to feel awkward at first, and if you haven’t exercised in a while that first class or run might feel rough! Even here at Climax Media, some days all you need is a yin yoga class to feel accomplished, while other days its training for the Sporting Life 10k. Do what you can, and try to reap those benefits of feeling healthier and happier.