Why Exercise is Important For Your Mental – And Social – Health

Water from the spring that I run to

I recently changed jobs and am looking for a house, which means my wife and I are staying with my parents in the meantime. I appreciate their generosity in taking us in. The downside is that I am 40 minutes from work. This means that even though I work a teacher’s day, I tack on an extra 80 minutes a day in travel time.

Operating a small business on the side, and seeing my wife and 18-month old daughter means that I don’t have much time in the evening to exercise. Nonetheless, I make it a priority. Some of my friends don’t get it. They wonder how I can work from 5:50 AM – 3:45 PM (including travel), write for various blogs, see my family, eat dinner, get eight hours of sleep and find time to run six miles. Honestly some nights this is easier than others, but the reason I make exercise a priority is because the benefits are clear to me as a teacher and person. The physical benefits of exercise are obvious, but I want to cover the mental and social benefits here.

Exercise has been shown to increase your mood and decrease depression. In fact, one study showed that exercise alone was effective in combating moderate depression, and exercising outdoors was even more effective. In fact, exercise is a proven mood lifter.

Exercise also creates a positive improvement in your body image, which as a teacher, is very important because you are in front of hundreds of people on a daily basis. It may seem unfair, but your students are judging your personality based on your appearance. If you are out-of-shape, they assume certain things about you. Unfair? Yep. True? Absolutely. Getting your body together subconsciously tells people you are confident and in charge. I am not saying you need to base your self-image entirely on your physical appearance. I am saying that if you want to look confident and “put together,” exercise is important.

Exercise is also a stress reliever. Nothing beats my daily six-mile round trip run out to the local spring. As I travel over the hills, viewing the purple foothills in the distance, my mind and body relax. I observe the changing seasons, as vibrant whites and pinks turn to green, and then to browns, reds, and yellows. Drinking from the natural spring halfway in is a nice reward for my efforts. Education can be stressful and this run always puts life in perspective.

Also, I have found that exercise increases my focus, as I am exercising, and on a regular basis. My mind is sharper and more relaxed. As a teacher this is very important. When I was overweight and out-of-shape, my mind was constantly clouded. Exercise clears the fog.

So, how can you find time to exercise as a busy teacher? The same way you find time for other things: make exercise a priority. Probably the easiest way is to cut out TV time. Pay attention to how much time you spend watching TV. I bet it is close to three to four hours a night, and more on weekends. That time can be spent exercising, either outside, at a gym, or even doing some type of DVD workout in your home.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is a teacher, author, and speaker. His articles receive over a million hits per year and have appeared in a variety of publications. He is co-owner of a communication company, and he also writes for The Popular Teen and other sites. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.