The Value of Exercise in Mental Health

The Value of Exercise in Mental Health


People who come to my office are seeking relief or change. It may be a relationship problem such as a dissatisfying marriage or partnership. It may be problems with a child. It may be conflict at work or in their family. Many are struggling with emotional concerns, such as depression or anxiety. Others have physical issues that are contributing to stress, frustration or sleep problems. 

This is a simple overview of issues that are far more complex for the one who is distressed. 

It is understandable that one may want relief. I support that goal fully. The challenge is to find the appropriate path for each person. 

We tend to think of exercise as a way of keeping our bodies fit. That is a valuable pursuit. We live in our bodies 24 hours a day and for our entire lives. The less pain and distress we have, the better we feel. To be flexible, strong and limber is beneficial. Studies have shown that exercising 45 minutes three times a week can add years to our lives. 

That amount of time is significant because many people exercise much more than that. The point is that we each need to define our goals.

While wanting to maintain good physical health is a respectable value, it is also important to recognize that exercise is very helpful in addressing emotional concerns. 

When we exercise, we work out stress in our lives. We are not always conscious that we do this. Often people will tell me how they worked out for an hour and do not remember what they were thinking about. Remembering our thoughts is not important. It is the ability to express it in some way, even subconsciously. 

This is why dreaming is important in our lives. We create the whole dream. Nothing is connected to our heads when we sleep. We write the script, create the characters, costume the plays and design the set. Yes, we are far more creative than we realize. 

Remembering the dreams is not important. We usually only remember the dreams close to waking up. Nightmares tend to wake us up; at some point we don’t want to continue on a painful journey. The purpose of a dream is to address some issue or emotion we are not fully conscious of during our waking state. Rather than leave business unfinished, we deal with it in our dreams. And we do not have to remember them to experience the value of having them. 

As we exercise, we are also working out thoughts and feelings that haven’t been expressed fully. It gives us a healthy outlet. And, yes, it is also a way of keeping our bodies healthy. Thus, a dual purpose.