If there was a new drug that could suppress your appetite, reduce your anxiety, and made you feel better about yourself… would you take it? What if it also could help you sleep better and be more productive throughout the day? If you could have more energy on the courts and a constant sense of well-being, excitement, and even joy, would you? Well, then we’ve got the prescription for you! It’s called exercise. While you’re getting physically stronger, you’re also freeing your mind and feeding your tennis player soul.
Exercise reduces stress.
When you exercise, your body releases dopamine, the “feel-good” hormones. In Psychology Today, David J. Linden, PhD., says this about exercise:
Exercise has a dramatic anti-depressive effect. It blunts the brain’s response to physical and emotional stress. A regular exercise program produces a large number of changes in the brain, including the new growth and branching of small blood vessels and increases in the geometric complexity of some neuronal dendrites.
So, the feel-good hormones combined with complex changes means less stress for you, along with an added sense of well-being that goes well beyond your workout sesh… because who needs added stress when you’re trying to win a match?
Exercise increases self-confidence.
Part of the reason exercise helps your self-confidence is that when you become physically active, there are both metabolic and physical changes that occur, resulting in a healthier looking AND feeling body. And it’s a fact that when we look better on the outside, we tend to feel better about ourselves on the inside. We have more confidence, and that is something we need every day, whether it’s when we’re playing against a tough opponent, or giving a presentation at work, or maybe meeting the in-laws for the first time.
Exercise helps you sleep better.
I hear a lot about sleep problems, from both family and friends. What I can tell you from firsthand experience is that if you exercise and move consistently throughout your day, you will sleep better, deeper, and feel well rested when you wake up. Every morning, I wake up before my alarm goes off, and my feet literally hit the ground running. But don’t just take my word for it… according to the National Sleep Foundation, exercise causes the body temperature to rise a few degrees, and subsequently, to drop again after you’ve been more sedentary, triggering feelings of drowsiness that help you sleep.
At Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, researchers don’t completely understand how physical activity improves sleep. Charlene Gamaldo, M.D. says:
We may never be able to pinpoint the mechanism that explains how the two are related; however, we do know that moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get. Slow wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate. Exercise can also help to stabilize your mood and decompress the mind, a cognitive process that is important for naturally transitioning to sleep.
Because it also helps with anxiety, you will find that you rest better because your mind is more at ease. So, if better sleep equals less anxiety, and less anxiety equals better sleep, then it’s a win-win, for sure!
Exercise will help you get more things done.
In my own life, I find that discipline generates more discipline. When I’m actively paying attention to eating healthy foods and exercising with mindfulness, I find that I’m also more organized at work and at home. On the contrary, when I’m feeling lazy about my fitness and food choices, I tend to procrastinate (at work, especially) which can end up causing unwanted stress when having to then rush to meet deadlines.
Even if you play tennis a couple of times a week, you should still carve out at least 30 minutes for exercise on each of the remaining 5 days. When you exercise regularly, you will get more done during your day, and it will seem easier for you to accomplish your goals, both on and off the court. And that ease will translate to less stress, more self-confidence, and better sleep.