Reap the Rewards of Exercise

(Dr. Clayton Lawrence, founder and CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on community wellness and inspiring others.)

As the CEO and president of medical staffing company Lawrence Executive Alliance of Professionals (LEAP) Inc., Dr. Clayton Lawrence understands the intricacies of not just a healthy body, but a healthy mind, as well. When he founded LEAP Foundation DC, its basic mission was to serve one purpose: To bridge the gap between hope and achievement.

And since 2009, the nonprofit organization has seen multiple successes for its student mentees in their educational and personal pursuits. Part of Dr. Lawrence’s mission is fueled by his own desire to lead a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise and he is proud to share this example with his mentees each day.

It is no secret that daily exercise can keep our physical bodies in tip-top shape, but Dr. Lawrence encourages the students he works with to discover its benefits on the mind, as well. With about 46.6 million Americans experiencing mental illness of some sort in a given year (National Alliance on Mental Health statistics: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers), there is no denying the need to bring this topic to light.

Regular exercise is important for so many reasons, but mentally, it can have a profound effect on our wellbeing. Here are a few examples:

Self-confidence

There is nothing quite like the feeling of achieving one’s goal, but when it is paired with a physical component, confidence is created that lasts a lifetime. With exercise, comes physical strength and with that is the belief that we are capable of overcoming challenges. Whether it’s training for and completing a marathon, getting out to ride the bike for a few miles each week or signing up for a youth sports league, when one goal is reached, the next is just around the corner. Keep pushing through and you’ll be amazed at what can be achieved.

Happy chemicals

Have you ever completed a run or a strenuous cardio workout and just felt on top of the world? That isn’t all in your head – ok, well, maybe it literally is. Studies show that when we get in a really good exercise, chemicals are released into the brain that are intended to eliminate pain. Much like morphine works as a painkiller, chemicals like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine flood the system to make it feel good when pain is present. This gives us a mental boost and encourages us to keep coming back for more.

Positive outlet

If you are an adult reading this, think back to your teenage/school days. Remember the stress of tests, the social dramas, the burden of “measuring up?” If there wasn’t a positive way to release some of this emotion, it probably manifested in negative ways, like aggression, depression, hostility or social withdraw. But when the chemicals caused by stress are burned off through a positive outlet like exercise and replaced with those happy chemicals discussed above, we are able to maintain healthy relationships not only with those around us, but with ourselves.