Exercise and Mental Health: Connecting the Dots

Dr. Laura Tanzini

Balancing the demands and responsibilities of everyday life can be overwhelming. For women, in particular, a typical day may include juggling work, family, pets, school assignments, and more. With the added stress of the pandemic, even the smallest of tasks can feel daunting.

With life’s demands rapidly growing, it is important to ensure one item remains on top of the list: YOU.

While it may seem easy, it can feel exceedingly difficult for women to find time for themselves to decompress. Finding time to cope with emotions and feelings throughout the day can greatly reduce stress and lend itself to improved mental health.

In terms of exercise, there can be many barriers or challenges. Perhaps you live in a small space. Or you don’t have weights. You only have 15 minutes in between calls.

The good news: exercise routines can be just as unique as you. They can involve household items (soup cans, towels, a broom), using your own bodyweight, accessing outdoor space that is safe or tapping into the internet’s plethora of work-out options. The goal is to explore and find choices that work for your lifestyle.

By overcoming challenges and making time for consistent exercise, there are many benefits to be gained. Below are some examples:
Mood: Endorphins are released when you exercise, which can help combat feelings of depression and anxiety.
Routine: Establishing a fitness routine gives you something to look forward to and in some cases, an opportunity for safe social engagement.
Self-esteem: There is a healing power tied to exercise that can remind you of your value, provide a respite from work stress, and raise self-esteem.
Sleep: Exercise can help improve sleep quality, sleep amounts, and even help with insomnia.
Brain function: There is a correlation between exercise and your brain, which can improve memory and cognitive ability.

Getting started
You know your schedule best and should fold exercising into your daily routine. Think of exercise like brushing your teeth or eating balanced meals – it’s an important part of your overall health.

Try using variety when crafting your exercise plans as repeating the same activity could cause you to lose interest. Pick different days for different body part workouts or coordinate with a friend to do an online workout with you. You have a creative license to choose how you move!

How long is enough?
When starting any new habit or getting back into the swing of things, slow and steady is the best approach. In other words, if you’re looking to get into running, don’t push yourself on day one to run a marathon.

While research shows that individuals should complete at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, adopting the approach of “move more” is a good initial step. Even if it’s squeezing in a few lunges, jumping jacks, or trips up the stairs – every step counts. There are days when yoga may feel right and others when dancing to 80s music may be the ticket. It’s about being consistent and making time for yourself, no matter how small the window.

Making time for exercise takes planning, patience, and persistence. Connect the dots starting today between exercise and mental health to start improving your well-being.


Author Bio

Dr. Laura Tanzini, DrPh, MA, MFT

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a highly educated and accomplished professional with a background in biology and psychology. She received a BS in Biology from UC Riverside, an MA in psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute, and a Doctorate in Public Health with a specialty in Lifestyle Medicine from Loma Linda University.

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a Board Certified Professional Counselor, Integrative Medicine Clinician, and PTSD Clinician. She has worked in multiple medical hospitals, mental health institutions, and inpatient eating disorder clinics. Also, Dr. Tanzini has written scholarly papers and spoken on various topics related to nutrition, stress, menopause, obesity, depression, anxiety, and human development.