exercise article

The Mental and Emotional Benefits You Get From Exercise

January 11, 2017

Most of us know the long term benefits that come with a healthy lifestyle. We have our own personal goals and activities that we love to do so an exercise program helps to improve our ability enjoy more.

The biggest driving factor for me after a long work day or when the alarm goes off at “way too early in the morning” – is never one of these benefits. In fact, that usually never comes to mind when I am deciding to work out. The biggest factor that gets me up in the morning, or driving to the gym after work, is what moving does both mentally and emotionally.

The Importance of Exercise

Over the last couple of years, multiple research studies have shown that exercise improves our abilities to fight stress, clinical depression, cognitive disorders, anxiety, and even our ability to learn skills such as math for children.

As we continue to do more research, we will hopefully gain a better understanding of all the benefits that movement offers. However, at 5 am on a cold rainy Seattle day, I find that all those benefits still do not get me out of bed and into the gym most days. Instead, I want to talk about the real mental benefits that drive me day in and day out, to get up and move.

When I look back on my own workouts as I go about the craziness of life, I always find that the benefits are found in three main areas - a sense of accomplishment, confidence, and endorphins. Working out is one of those things, that for better or worse, is all about you. You have to make it happen! No matter what support system you have in place to help keep you motivated; whether it is a friend, a trainer, or a snazzy playlist on your phone. No one but you can make you get up and move.

A Sense of  Accomplishment

Growing up in the Midwest and going to school in the middle of a cornfield made me appreciate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and most specifically all the hiking opportunities that are here for anyone who is willing to conquer them. One of the best feelings I have with exercise is when I am sitting at the top enjoying the amazing views and sense of accomplishment.

I love hiking, but the actual trip up the mountain is not always easy. In fact, half the time I am thinking about how nice an elevator would be. Being able to sit there and know that the only reason you are able to enjoy this moment is because of the time, work and effort that you put into getting there is amazing.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a quote about being physically fit, “That money cannot buy, you cannot borrow or steal it, and it can’t be given to you”. The only way you can get there is by the work that you put into it. Being able to accomplish something and have that feeling of “I did this” is an amazing moment. I also love how much that feeling can also lead to greater self-confidence.

The second major component in developing confidence in yourself can be a challenge. Both in your physical ability, as well as your mentality in your abilities. Most of us don’t instantly think about being more confident when we think of exercise. However, for me, lifting weights has had a significant impact on my confidence with my ability to do things, but it can be an interesting game.

Exercise and the Mental Aspect

My coach in high school used to tell us its 90% mental and 10% physical. The more I lift, the more I feel that is true. What do you do when your arms start to shake and you have two more reps? When you have four sets to do, but you’re tired after the first set? For me, the hardest thing is getting back to the weight-bar and entrusting myself to lift the weight after missing a lift. The more I learn about how I can push myself to see what happens when I focus on the task at hand and channel my energy, the more confident I get in my abilities both inside the gym and outside of it.

The third for me is usually the main reason.  When we move we are the host for endorphins to get released that can cause us to not only feel better but also have more energy. No, I don’t feel like I am ready to jump up and do the workout again. It is definitely a subtle feeling, but I can tell that my body feels better and has more energy the days I work out. When we move our bodies the way they should move, it not only helps us reduce the stress of the day, but also helps us feel better the rest of the day. Yes, I may be sore and it may take me a while to recover from the workout, but the days I work out I feel more awake and ready for the next challenge. Most of the time this is what gets me to the gym. The fact that I know I always feel better afterward.

I love to challenge the people I work with to exercise. Yes, it will help you lose weight. Yes, it is significantly important for many health benefits. The biggest reason is being able to go through your day confidently, and not have to second guess the fun adventures that await you.

Maybe you don’t live in a place that has the mountains that we get to enjoy here in the Pacific Northwest, however, metaphorically speaking – we all have a mountain that we are looking to climb. Maybe it is trying to lose the weight so you can get a knee replacement, improving your balance and core strength so that you are able to work in the yard or any number of the amazing activities that are out there.

I hope that everyone can enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when you get to the top, and watch as that feeling helps give you the confidence, happiness, and success that carries into the other areas of your life – while enjoying the endorphins that happen post workout. That is the reason why I get up on cold rainy days and head to the gym.



Nathaniel Billing is an exercise specialist with Eviva Bariatric Center located in Edmonds Washington and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan College with over 5 years of training and 3 years working with Bariatric patients. Nathaniel loves working with anyone who is interested in improving their health and fitness but has specialized in Bariatric weight loss the last three years specifically working with people post-surgery in reaching their goal and leaning to start a healthy lifestyle.