Why Introverts Should Stay Physically Active

An introvert exercising

Not only does being physically active have many health benefits, but it provides introverts with valuable alone time, too.

One activity that I’ve learned to appreciate as an introvert is physical exercise. It not only helps me relax and unwind after a long day, but it’s also how I enjoy some “me time.” 

Previously, I would spend my alone time curled up on the couch, enjoying a nice book. Over time, however, while I still enjoy reading, I have come to look forward to evenings (and sometimes mornings) when I don my gym attire and get to sweat. Usually, my workout routine consists of a half-hour of cardio or strength training. As a result, I am physically and mentally fitter; my self-confidence is higher, and I am more productive and creative. I also believe physical exercise gives me more balance, mentally: It gets me out of my head and engages my physical senses.

Physical activity is important to us introverts for several reasons, but I think the main one is it gets us out of constantly living inside our heads. As introverts, we spend a lot of time processing our experiences. According to Susan Cain, the author of Quiet, introverts prefer minimally stimulating environments and need plenty of time alone to recharge. Usually, a favorite hangout spot for introverts is a bookstore or library. If not, they typically enjoy spending time indoors, in the company of perhaps a pet, a movie, or a journal.

While this is often how outstanding introverted leaders and geniuses are born, over time, introverts can put themselves at risk of physical inactivity, which can lead to both mental and physical fatigue and ailments. Physical exercise, though, provides the perfect antidote… especially as the world reopens after the Covid-19 pandemic.

6 Ways Physical Activity Can Benefit Introverts

1. It relieves stress and can calm an introvert’s overthinking mind.

Most people get stressed out once in a while — maybe you have too much on your plate or unexpected life events happen, throwing you off-balance. And, research shows that introverts can be more prone to mental stress due to the nature of their personality. Moreover, many introverts are perfectionists, which, in and of itself, can cause stress, too. So learning to cope with stress in a healthy way is critical for introverts.

Exercise is a well-known and scientifically proven stress reliever. According to John J. Ratey’s book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, exercise tackles stress by increasing the threshold of the body for handling stress. Think of exercise as a vaccine against stress. Traditionally, vaccines work by introducing a mild form of a disease-causing agent into the body, therefore stimulating the production of hormones that fight against the disease, which builds immunity.

Similarly, by engaging in exercise, the body is subjected to good stress that leaves the mind more resilient and more capable of handling future challenges. During exercise, cells are broken down and rebuilt in a way that leaves them stronger. Exercise also reduces hormones associated with stress, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can be potentially harmful when produced for extended periods of time. Instead, it triggers the production of endorphins, chemicals produced in the brain to ease pain naturally after a workout and cause an elevated mood. According to Harvard Health Publishing, endorphins are responsible for the “runners high” and for feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany hard workouts.

2. It helps reduce anxiety, which can be common among introverts.

Anxiety, which is closely related to stress, can be common among introverts (especially with all the overthinking we do). While some (or many) introverts fear public speaking, others have social anxiety. While introversion is not the same as social anxiety, the latter manifests as nervousness in social situations. So this is where physical exercise can come in handy. It can help tackle anxiety not only neurologically (studies have shown that exercise can produce similar results to clinical medication for anxiety), but can also be a perfect way to relax at the end of the day.

3. It can help prevent depression.

In addition to relieving stress and anxiety, physical exercise can also be used to prevent and relieve mild forms of depression, which introverts may be prone to. This is because exercise, as mentioned earlier, has been shown to boost one’s mood through production of endorphins, therefore causing a person to feel better immediately after a workout. Exercise also enhances the production of dopamine, a hormone in the brain responsible for motivation and mood stabilization. A 2000 study from Duke University suggests that exercise could produce better results than clinical medication for treating signs of depression. However, individuals with depression should still consult a professional to find the right treatment plan for them.

4. It helps improve self-confidence.

As the saying goes, “The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence.” Self-confidence can help you in many areas of your life, from job opportunities to relationships. However, confidence does not come naturally to most people, especially some introverts, since we live in a culture that promotes extroversion. The good news is that confidence can be learned, and also enhanced by working out. How? Exercise can help people feel better about themselves because it regulates the hormones in the brain necessary for feelings of well-being and self-esteem. These hormones include serotonin, which is responsible for mood and impulse control, dopamine, which is responsible for motivation, and norepinephrine, which is responsible for alertness and attention.

(Here’s how to be quiet and fierce at the same time.)

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5. It increases your capacity to learn and boosts creativity.

Research has found that exercise has a positive impact on cognitive abilities, such as memory, concentration, and learning. Regular physical activity boosts learning by improving blood flow to regions of the brain responsible for learning. Researchers have also discovered that exercise enhances creativity by improving the brain’s plasticity. And who wouldn’t want to be able to learn more and be more creative, right?

6. It improves your overall health. 

Health benefits that come with regular physical activity include improving your heart and lung functioning, better sleep, strengthening your bones and muscles, and even living a longer life; it can literally make you look and feel younger. Exercise also helps prevent and manage stress-related diseases, such as arthritis, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome, and some autoimmune disorders. Moreover, exercise has been shown to improve the body’s immune function and, consequently, is often recommended alongside medication for patients with chronic diseases, such as HIV and cancer. Plus, apart from making you physically and mentally stronger, regular physical activity — when combined with a healthy diet — can also help you maintain a healthy body weight.

How to Get Started Exercising

Physical activity includes a wide variety of activities, like brisk walking or jogging, dancing, swimming, biking, climbing stairs or hills, yoga, playing tennis or basketball, martial arts, or muscle-strengthening activities (such as lifting weights). If you are a beginner, start with the least amount of time that you are comfortable with, like 15 minutes a day. Yep, studies show that it is possible to reap benefits of physical activity even with as little as 15-minute sessions each day — as long as you are consistent.

You can follow online videos, hire a trainer at your gym, and/or find workout buddies to boost your motivation. As you progress, aim for 30-45 minutes of exercise per day. And by engaging in activities that you enjoy most — while also challenging yourself — working out will cease to be a dreaded task and will become a hobby that you enjoy and look forward to.

If you’re not sure where to start, first consult your doctor to find out what would work best for you, schedule days off for resting (to give your body enough time to recharge), and, lastly, eat a balanced diet and drink lots of water. Remember, it should be fun!

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