3 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
There are a lot of mental health benefits associated with exercise.
Even though 99% of all exercise related articles will focus exclusively on the many physical benefits of exercise, there are substantial mental health benefits as well.
We live in an era where the stigma around mental health is decreasing and where are people are starting to become more and more open about mental health problems.
With this in mind, let’s use this article to focus on just a few of the many mental health benefits associated with regular exercise.
Arguably the greatest mental health benefit associated with regular exercise is reduced stress levels. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First off, exercise helps lower the cortisol levels in your body. For those who don’t know what cortisol is, it’s commonly referred to as the “stress hormone.”
By helping to reduce the amount of cortisol in your body, exercise can be extremely useful for helping you to get rid of stress.
Exercise also provides a much-needed distraction during stressful times.
A big issue with excessive stress is that the person who is stressed out is constantly thinking about whatever it is that is causing the stress, which then causes them more stress.
One of the keys to managing stress levels is having the ability to take your mind off whatever it is that’s stressing you out; exercise allows you to do just that.
It Improves Your Self-Confidence
A lot of people suffer from low self-confidence.
This not only negatively impacts their life, but it can also lead to other, serious mental illnesses like depression.
Again, exercise can be of great help in this situation.
Study upon study has shown that regular exercise makes you more confident.
A big part of this is due to body image. People who exercise regularly feel stronger and may even lose weight, which makes them feel better about how they look.
It Can Help Battle Addiction
Addiction is very much a mental illness.
Your brain and body get addicted to the good feelings provided by whatever it is you’re addicted to.
In that sense, exercise can actually help you fight against addiction.
When you start exercising regularly, your body starts to release chemicals called endorphins.
These feel-good chemicals are what your brain and body get addicted to.
So, exercise emerges as a healthy way to still provide those feel-good endorphins, without engaging in very bad, addictive behavior like smoking, over-eating, gambling, or other activities that are both addictive and harmful.
How Exercise Helps Your Brain Health and Memory
When you go for a run or lift weights, you probably think about how it helps your heart, your muscles, etc.
But, what you probably don’t think about, is how exercise can help keep your brain healthy.
That’s right, physical exercise can help keep your brain healthy in many different ways.
Exercise improves blood flow
Maintaining a healthy circulatory system is essential to maintaining a healthy brain. Getting enough blood to your brain ensures that all your brain cells stay healthy.
Exercise, specifically cardio exercise, is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy circulatory system.
Reduced inflammation in the brain
In older adults, inflammation in the brain is one of the chief causes of cognitive decline.
As studies by Harvard and others have shown, regular exercise is key to reducing or even eliminating the effects of inflammation.
Even if you aren’t an older person, this information can still be useful to you.
Exercising when you get older is always easier if you start when you are younger.
Not only do you develop good exercise habits, but your muscles and bones remain stronger, which enables you to do a wider range of exercise when you get older.
So, even if you are younger, it is best to start exercising now to help keep your brain healthy when you get older.
You sleep better
These days a lot of people spend their nights watching television or browsing their phones.
This results in poorer quality sleep. This creates a sort of chain reaction because poorer quality sleep leads to a steep decline in a variety of cognitive functions, including memory.
Regular exercise improves sleep quality, which leads to an improvement in your cognitive functions, including your memory.
Exercise reduces stress levels
One of the least talked about effects of stress is how it can lead to a degradation in your cognitive functions. Have you ever tried to take a test or do anything that requires serious thought while being stressed out?
It’s next to impossible to think clearly when you are dealing with lots of stress.
By reducing stress levels, exercise boosts your cognitive performance.
You will be able to think clearer, remember things better, and just in general your brain will be healthier when you are less stressed out.