Physical activity can go a long way toward a person’s mental health.

Ed King, owner of King’s Gym in Bedford Heights, and Sarah Villanueva, master trainer at Club Pilates Cleveland in Solon, Orange and Hudson, said physical activity can positively impact mental health.

“Physical activity, such as pilates, boosts endorphins (which are hormones that make us feel great), gets the blood circulating, is beneficial to our metabolism, immune system and gives us more energy and focus throughout the day,” Villanueva said. “When we feel better physically, it helps our mental state stay positive. It has been scientifically proven that exercise can help relieve depression and anxiety.”

On the obvious side, there are physical benefits. But, King said, the mental benefits of exercise are just as good.

“When you work out, a couple of things happen,” he said. “The better shape you’re in, the better you feel. It’s a great stress reliever. It’s not only about the workout itself, but it’s the endorphins being released. It is factual – when you work out, no matter what it is, you benefit mentally from it. You’ll feel better leaving than when you went in.”

For those who aren’t very well-versed, King said it helps to try various things to see the mental benefits.

“At the end of the day, results are what matter,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have the best trainer or the amount of money you spend, if you feel better after doing it, that will motivate you. If you’ve never done it before, ask friends and families about it. Do your own research about it.”

When working to boost mental health with physical activity, Villanueva said one should be committed. 

“One needs to make a commitment to a routine,” she said. “Once a physical activity becomes part of people’s daily lives, it is much easier to make the choice to take care of themselves. This is an act of self-love. When we make choices that are healthy and productive, we feel better about ourselves and we are empowered.”

Both centers offer programs and specific seminars that help repair one’s mental health.

“It is a trickle-down effect because whenever I interview potential clients, I always go over the mental benefits of fitness,” King said. “We also do meditation. If I have a client who comes in very stressed, I suggest that program. I have another trainer whose technique is very yoga based to relieve stress as that is a little more mental.”

At Club Pilates, Villanueva said all classes focus on the mind-body connection.

“The practice of pilates is about breath, centering, focus, relieving tension, imagery and building functional strength,” she said. “The mind-body connection is so powerful once we use it and practice it regularly. Our classes help with alignment and proper movement patterns. This helps reduce pain in our daily lives. When we reduce physical pain, it reduces stress.”

If an individual is interested in exploring physical fitness as a means for mental and emotional healing, both professionals suggested one to research various options.

“Find a physical activity that feels good,” Villanueva said. “One should feel safe, inspired and invigorated during and after physical activity. That doesn’t mean it’s not a challenge. Sometimes overcoming a reasonable physical challenge can give a great sense of accomplishment. So, find a good balance and do what feels right.”

King said, “The only way you’re going to know (it works) is if you do it. You could talk to people who do it and get some information. But ultimately, it is up to the person to decide if they are going to try this. Results motivate people as well. If they feel the difference, that will increase the odds of them making it a lifestyle change.”

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