Exercise for sanity

By Jonathan Decker, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

When I was younger, working out was all about how I would look in my swimming trunks. In my 20s, it seemed easier to find time for it. As I’ve grown older, the challenges of balancing career, marriage, and parenthood have contributed to the mentality that I’m “too busy” or “too tired” to exercise. What’s more, I’ve tried to justify my lack of activity with thoughts like “I’m not vain enough to make the gym a priority. I’ve got important things to do, and I love myself just the way I am.” In recent months, however, I’ve discovered something: Exercise is about sanity, not vanity. The benefits are psychological, emotional, and spiritual as much as physical.

Previous to this discover, like many people, I’d go for a jog or hit the weights once in a while but not with any consistency. After every single workout, however, I noticed that my stress was either gone or significantly diminished. As a result, I was much more patient with my children. I had more energy throughout the day. I was better able to focus with my therapy clients, sympathize with their feelings, and think clearly to find solutions to their problems. I also felt more attractive due both to improved body image and the confidence that comes with self-discipline. It was these results that have motivated me to be consistent with my exercise.

There are mountains of research demonstrating the mental, emotional, and relational benefits of regular exercise. Working out can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can serve as a healthy alternative to self-harming behaviors. I’ve recommended exercise to my clients as a means of overcoming nicotine cravings and urges to smoke. Staying physically active has been demonstrated to improve one’s quality of sleep, boost energy, enhance sexual intimacy, and help prevent injury and disease.

This information, and my experiences, has led to me to the realization that exercise isn’t just for people obsessed with having a six-pack; it’s for everyone who wants to be a better person. As I’ve renewed—and followed through with—my commitment to regular physical activity, I’ve found it easier to meet my potential as a therapist, a husband, a father, and a friend. Exercise has helped me to have energy, a clear head, and a more positive disposition. If you find yourself thinking you’re too busy or too tired to work out, it likely means that you can’t afford not to do it.

Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George. He is available for face-to-face or online video conferencing sessions. He can be contacted at [email protected] or by phone at (435) 215-6113. To read more of Jonathan’s articles, please visit www.jdeckertherapy.com.