by Tony Gjokaj July 06, 2020 5 min read

Exercise was my means to eliminate depression and build self-confidence within myself in my teenage years.

In a time where most will focus on drugs and alcohol for escape, I found my sanctuary in exercise. Exercise was my battlefield, and everything good is worth fighting for!

Encountering and overcoming the pain and progress from exercise allowed me to strive towards being a better person, and reaching my greatest potential.

In this article, I am going to talk about how exercise helped my mental health. I will give you scientific and personal examples to support what I have to say.

So with that, let's dive in!

On Exercise and Mental Health

Exercise is and has always been a catalyst to a greater potential. It allows you to exceed your expectations - to be a better you.

I personally like to treat the gym as my warzone: it's the battlefield. It allows me to embrace the present moment while challenging me to be better.

This helps me come out of the gym even better than before - Reforged.

The gym is a metaphorical life teacher.

The Science of Exercise and Mental Health

Now if my personal anecdote isn't convincing, I'd love to share some science behind exercise and mental health.

Exercise has been shown to improve mental health through means of reducing anxiety, depression, and more. This study also reinforces my personal experience with exercise, stating: "exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal."

Exercise and Nutrition

When people embark on their journey towards exercise, they also tend to develop better eating habits. Nutrition has a huge impact on mood, as the nutrient-dense foods you consume provide various health and cognitive benefits.

While there are plenty of diets to implement, one of the best diets is the Mediterranean Diet. According to one study, the Mediterranean Diet helped reduced depressive symptoms in older adults over time.

To read more about Mediterranean-Styled diets, click here!

Better nutrition choices come as a result of introducing exercise to your body. At the end of a workout, we tend to fixate on eating foods that will benefit us.

This is why we believe exercise to be the ultimate habit-builder.

Exercise and Sleep

As I've mentioned in our Melatonin and Serotonin article, exercise also helps build "sleep pressure", which is defined as the pressure needed to help you fall asleep.

Better quality of sleep allows for better recovery, mood, energy, and more. With that, we can argue that exercise is an incredible "habit-builder".

A Personal Anecdote

Personally, exercise has helped me overcome depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. Introducing myself to exercise allowed me to stack positive habits on top of each other:

  • Exercising forced me to eat better. To be in shape, I needed to eat more protein and nutrient-dense foods. I sacrificed some junk food for the ability to perform better at the gym.
  • Exercising forced me to sleep better. For my muscles to recover, I knew that I have to focus on optimizing my sleep. This meant that I had to have a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Exercising forced me to improve myself mentally. Improving my body did help the mind, but it actually made me realize everyone can improve. It gave me the confidence to take risks in other aspects of my life.

With my personal example, I truly believe that fitness is the catalyst to a greater potential.

Guidelines for Mental Health

According to one study, exercise lowered depression, despite what levels of depression the individual was facing. So with that, the CDC created some guidelines that you can follow for exercise.

The following are recommendations for exercise for physical and mental health:

  • 2 1/2 hours to 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity exercise.
  • Muscle Development activities for 2+ days a week.

Simply put: a combination of resistance (weight training) and cardiovascular exercise will benefit you physically and mentally.

Reforged Guidelines

With Reforged, we tend to prioritize weight lifting over cardiovascular exercise for the reason that resistance training builds significantly more muscle.

Here's our take on exercise:

  • Muscular development could build self-confidence in the long-term: when you look better, you feel better.
  • Cardiovascular exercise will improve your mood in the short-term and long-term: If done consistently, it is quite therapeutic, helps recovery, and your overall mood.
  • Any exercise program will benefit you in regards to physical and mental health: choose one, or both. Whatever you prefer that helps you stay consistent

While these guidelines are solid recommendations, we wanted to dive in further with an example of a simple workout program for physical and mental health.

Program Example

This program is a 5 day a week program: 3 weight training days and 2 cardio days. It's a program for people who are just getting into exercise for the physical and mental health benefits.

Here are a few guidelines to consider:

  • For Muscular Development: we could weight train on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • For Cardiovascular Exercise: Tuesday's and Thursday's.
  • If you miss one of the cardio days, feel free to add it on a weekend.
  • If you miss one of the weight training days, feel free to add it on a weekend. Make sure you spread it a day apart from another weight training day. 
  • If you find yourself not being able to stick with the program, focus on starting with the weight training days before adding the cardio.

With that, let's get into the program!

Monday - Squat

  • Squat - 3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Overhead Press - 3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Tricep Extension - 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Leg Curl - 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Tuesday - Cardiovascular Day

  • 30-60 minutes of Cardio
  • Can be kickboxing, jogging, rowing, walking, etc.

Wednesday - Bench Press

  • Bench - 3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Dumbbell Row - 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Bicep Curl - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Face Pulls - 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Thursday - Cardiovascular Day

  • 30-60 minutes of Cardio
  • Can be kickboxing, jogging, rowing, walking, etc.

Friday - Deadlift

  • Deadlift - 3 sets of 4-6 reps
  • Pull-Ups - 50 total reps
  • Leg Extensions - 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Tricep Pushdown - 3 sets of 10-15 reps

As you can see here, this program is a simple program that helps you get started on your journey. If you follow a specific program already, be sure that you practice consistency over everything!

Your goal is to build a confident and happier you, and you can only do that with consistency!

Transform Your Body, Transform Your Mind.

At Reforged, our goal is to show you all the same love we have for exercise. Fitness helped us physically and mentally, allowing us to do our best work.

We are very passionate about helping others get through their mental challenges because we have been there. Fitness helped us go beyond, and we want to share that with you.

To simplify this post: exercise not only just improves your body, but it improves your mind as well! We were meant to move, to progress, and to be stronger.

There's a reason why our bodies and minds grow and adapt. We are meant to be better.

Thanks for reading Reforged Legion! If you have any questions or recommendations on content you would like to see, email me at tony@reforgedperformance.com.

Now, go out there and reforge yourself with exercise!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.



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