Movement; the best medicine.


Partner Content Birmingham Family YMCA

Article by Teri Keller

Photography by Teri Keller

Taking care of your mental health has been a hot topic as of late.  Although it looks different for every person, one thing is the same:  However you do it, the payout is huge. 

As a mom of six kids, I have found my mental solace in the gym.  This has looked different from year to year as my circumstances changed.  When my babies were small it looked like me on a treadmill reading a book and finishing with a shower ALL BY MYSELF while my kids played at the YMCA childwatch.  It was not only life changing, but life giving! I found myself renewed by the peace and quiet and energized by the movement of my body. 

 As they grew older it changed to me attending group exercise classes to meet new people and setting up playdates with their kids because our kids had played so well in the gym together. 

Now as a mom of older kids it looks like me teaching the group fitness classes here at the Birmingham Family YMCA, not only to get to know other adults but to push myself and hit goals that I have set just for me!  To decompress life's daily stress and shut things out and focus on the movement.  That is my bliss!

So how does physical fitness impact our mental state?  When we move, our body uses the stress hormones to make our muscles move instead of storing them.  We are then rewarded with endorphins! Endorphins' job is actually to help make us feel happy!  (I love endorphins)!!! 

This doesn’t mean that we have to run a marathon or keep up in a spin class to earn the endorphin reward, it also doesn’t mean that we have to go in the weight room and lift the heaviest weights we can find.  What it means is that when you move, with a rhythm and with a purpose, your body and your mind enjoy it!  


One day while sitting in the sauna I started talking to a woman and she told me that she was really embarrassed that she hadn’t been back to the YMCA in years, but she just had to tell someone that she had walked an entire mile!  She started to tear up because she was so proud and I startled her by shouting “That is the best thing I heard all day!  You are a BEAST!!” 

She and I ended up crying together (because I am a sympathetic crier….no one cries alone in my presence) and basking in our shared endorphin high.  As we walked out of the sauna together, she touched my arm and said, thank you so much this is exactly what I needed.

“Food is the most widely abused anti-anxiety drug in America, and exercise is the most potent yet underutilized antidepressant”. -Bill Phillips 

Movement is a powerful medicine in many ways. Don’t let yourself get psyched out of doing what will help you and your mental health by thinking you have to go to the gym and punish yourself and your body. Start slow, move gently, try new things, and work on being consistent more than physical changes or gains.  Engage with those around you, create a community where you belong, and maximize your physical and mental health benefits.  Do it just for yourself because you deserve it!  

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