10 MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
- Reduce Stress:
Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress
- Boost Happy Chemicals:
Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. For this reason, progressive doctors recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety (or those who are just feeling low) pencil in plenty of exercise/gym time.
- Improve Self-Confidence:
.On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, ‘self-worth’.
- Prevent Cognitive Decline:
Working out, at all age levels but especially between age 25 and 50, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.
- Alleviate Anxiety:
The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Participating in an exercise class or hopping on a treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety sensitivity.
- Boost Brainpower:
Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning.
- Help Control Addiction:
The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to exercise, and other forms of pleasure, like food drugs alcohol etc. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol (and more rarely, food). On the bright side, exercise can help in addiction recovery. Short and regular exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings (at least in the short term).
- Increase Relaxation:
For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep.
- Get More Done:
Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday can be an ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian rhythms.
- Inspire Others:
Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy. Pin it to inspiration or good old-fashioned competition, nobody wants to let the other person down. In fact, being part of a team is so powerful that it can actually raise athletes’ tolerances for pain. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session.
Exercise that raises the heart rate above 70% of its maximum in shorts bursts of 5-10 minutes at a time for 30 minutes 3 times per week will have a significantly beneficial effect on, not only mental health levels, but overall health and fitness levels.
Best of Luck.