benefits of exercise on mental health

6 Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health

Research shows there are several benefits of exercise on mental health, particularly for people experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Incorporating a light exercise routine throughout your week can help you improve your health and develop better habits.

In this article, you will discover the benefits of exercise on mental health.

Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health

It is obvious to most that exercise is crucial to maintaining physical health. It builds muscle mass, assists with bone density, staves off inflexibility, and can provide a boost to the immune system. What is lesser known is that physical exercise also provides benefits for our psychological state of being. The following are some of the most obvious benefits of regular exercise on improving mental health.

Here are several benefits of exercise on mental health …

Depression Relief

Depression is characterized by a lack of ability to experience pleasure. A person in depression will find it difficult to find the motivation to act in the present, will not be able to see a clear path to the future, and will often spend a lot of time stuck in negative thoughts about the past. On a biological level, this impediment to feeling positive about life is connected to a lack of production and release of chemicals in the brain. People with depression are found to have lower levels of feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine, circulating in their system.

Physical exercise not only improves the strength and resiliency of our bodies, but it also improves our ability to be mentally and emotionally resilient. Exercise increases the number of chemical endorphins that are produced in the brain. These endorphins result in an improvement in mood, and can even help the brain to grow new connections between neurons. Better brain health means that there is more opportunity for natural feel-good chemicals to be produced and sustained.

Of all of these characteristics, difficulty in finding the motivation to act in the present is the biggest hurdle to beginning an exercise routine. For those struggling to get started, try setting a short-term goal. Determine to commit to a daily exercise routine for one week, and then examine the results. Discovering that you are feeling better after engaging in the exercise can help to motivate you in continuing with the good habit.

Anxiety Relief

Anxiety is a disorder that involves varying levels of fear about the unknown future. A person who is anxious is continually on alert, with the biological fight-or-flight mechanism activated. The brain and body are continually prepared to take on the next threat, whether real or imagined.

Physical exercise is the perfect way to release this store of nervous energy. When the flight-or-fight mechanism is activated, doing one of those two things is exactly what is desired. Think about how much exercise involves exactly those two activities, albeit in a safe and contained environment. Running on a treadmill or spending some time at the punching bag will provide your anxiety with the precise outlet that it craves.

An indirect benefit of engaging in exercise is that it distracts an anxious person from fretting about the future. The distraction technique is commonly encouraged by mental health therapists when treating anxiety disorders. As anxiety is often rooted in events that aren’t based in reality, allowing yourself to disengage from anxious thoughts through focusing on your exercise routine can provide a welcome experience of relief.

Improved Attention and Memory

The endorphins which are released through physical exercise are not only great for helping our mood to improve and our neurons to increase, but it also assists with helping the brain to prioritize tasks. Engaging in aerobic exercise heightens the processing power of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain which is responsible for attention and memory. Medications that address attention disorders, such as ADHD, are targeting this exact location in the brain. Physical exercise can provide a similar benefit, without the need for a prescription drug.

To learn about the benefit of exercise on memory retention, one only needs to look at the myriad of studies that show the effect of exercise on the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Not only do the endorphins released during exercise work together with brain plasticity and development of neuronal connections, but the increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain which occurs during vigorous exercise boost the ability of your hippocampus to store recent memories.

Increased Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is a subjective concept. If you have ever observed someone strutting their stuff like a fashion model after losing 50 pounds, you understand this concept as self-evident. When we exercise, our perception of self tends to change for the better. Not only do we benefit from the idea that we are finally doing something that is socially encouraged and promoted, but we also begin to notice subtle changes in our appearance and physical abilities. As we become stronger, more flexible, and more trim, we tend to become more socially confident.

Better Sleep

With much of our modern lifestyle consisting of sedentary activities, such as sitting at a desk or standing in one place, we tend to miss out on the experience of sleeping like a baby after a hard days’ work. While our brains and emotions may be exhausted after a day at the office, our physical bodies tend to feel like nothing much was accomplished, at all. As a result, the attempt to convince our body to concede that it is time for bed can be a losing battle.

Not ending up with a good night of sleep takes a toll on our psyche. We are more prone to be grumpy, moody, and inattentive. Providing your body with regular physical exercise is an effective way to let it know that you have, indeed, worked hard enough to earn your bedtime. A consistent sleep schedule, in turn, will improve your mental health.

More Energy

Yet another benefit of regular exercise is an increase in the store of physical and mental energy. Our physiology is designed to adapt and accommodate to whatever circumstances we regularly encounter. If we subject our body and brain to regular physical exercise, it will become accustomed to the new standards of operating. As our exercise routine increases in intensity, the body and brain will again step up to meet the expected levels of activity. Over time, a consistent exercise routine will result in a new norm of improved mental and physical functioning.