This post was contributed by VizerTribe author, Jayla!
Growing up, exercise and sports were like therapy. Despite the occasional dread of going to practice (we all have those days), I always felt significantly better—both physically and mentally—once practice was over.
Soccer was my favorite sport, and I played for over ten years. Even when the weather turned in the winter, I would play indoor. My love for the game dictated a lot of the choices I made. But then one day everything changed. In a split second, I tore my ACL. My injury was so bad that it required screws and a cadaver to be repaired.
Just one moment was enough to end my contact-sports career and everything I had ever known.
During my recovery, and even for some time after, I was very unhappy. I felt like I had been robbed of my routine and my “feel-good” endorphins. I was attending physical therapy regularly, but physically, it was quite the opposite of a playing soccer. It consisted of slow-paced cycling, elastic band exercising and very cautious movements. I was certain I would never experience the surge of endorphins I felt after a high-intensity workout ever again.
After what seemed like forever to recover, I decided enough was enough. An unexplainable realization came over me. I realized that although I can no longer experience contact team sports, I can still accomplish a high-intensity workout on my own—so I began to run.
I started out slowly at first, but before I knew it, I was running non-stop for miles at a time, through every neighborhood and trail I could find. That’s when I first realized the mental health benefits of exercise.
I am now a practicing registered nurse, which has only furthered my understanding and appreciation for the scientific and pathophysiological benefits of a good workout. Exercise relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins.
Even after a grueling back-to-back 12-hour night shifts, the last thing I do (before passing out in my bed) is get a solid workout in. It may sound crazy to some, but for me, it is an instant reset button. If I go too long without a good workout, it starts to take a toll on my sanity and everyone around me.
Exercise is like your very own free therapy session. Even if you make time for a simple 30 active minutes in the gym, or outside, it can make a huge difference in your mental health. Working out will always be a crucial part my routine, for both its physical and mental health benefits, and I encourage you, if you do not already, to try and find what exercises work for you, add them to your routine, and see how it improves the quality of your life.