Most of us are aware of the physical benefits of exercise. Lower blood pressure, controlled weight, increased endurance etc. But less well known are the emotional benefits.
Decreased anxiety, improved sleep, greater self-confidence and a renewed appreciation for the natural world are also attainable. Our concept of time can change as well as a 30 minute cycle to work can feel quicker than 20 minutes in the car crawling in traffic. Some studies show that a regular regimen of exercise is as effective or more than anti-depressant medications in counteracting depression and anxiety. One study summarized in the Harvard Health Report found moderate exercise for half an hour five times a week was as effective as Zoloft for mild to moderate depression, but the antidepressant medication was effective more quickly. Thus the importance of ongoing regular exercise.
The gradual improvement in achievement, in endurance, speed, stamina and strength can be satisfying and confidence building. The social opportunities to connect with other like minded people is an additional benefit. One of the greatest pleasures of a hard exercise session is the deep appreciation felt for rest and renewal afterwards. We seek to appreciate the little pleasures of life and to be present in the moment to moment of our lives. Sitting in a comfortable chair, drinking a cup of coffee and reading a magazine or listening to music after an intense physical effort can be profoundly pleasurable and deeply appreciated.