We all know about the physical benefits of exercise — a healthy heart, weight loss, muscle development, cancer prevention, etc. — but did you know that exercise has been scientifically proven to offer several mental health benefits as well?
Exercise releases endorphins, a group of hormones that create a feeling of accomplishment when we complete a tough workout and the positive attitude that we have for the rest of our day as a result. These experiences are often referred to as “runner’s high,” but you can experience that same euphoric sensation from any type of vigorous, cardiovascular activity like aerobics and cycling.
Here’s a look at five key psychological benefits of regular exercise:
Exercising after a long, stressful day might be far from appealing, but it can actually be incredibly relieving. According to the Mayo Clinic, physical exercise helps your brain to boost production of endorphins and diverts your attention away from any stressful issues you are dealing with.
Stress and anxiety can also contribute to insomnia, which in turn can lead to a whole host of other health problems. Research shows that exercise can help people with chronic insomnia not only to fall asleep faster, but it also improves the quality of their sleep.
Boosts our mood:
Studies show that regular exercise helps your brain release feel-good chemicals like endorphins, neurotransmitters and endocannabinoids and reduces the production of immune system chemicals that trigger or worsen depression.
In addition, as body temperature is increased with moderate or intense activity it can have an overall calming effect on the body. Exercising outdoors also helps to provide vitamin D, which your body absorbs through sun exposure. Scientists have linked low vitamin D levels with chronic pain, asthma and seasonal affective disorder.
Many studies show that exercise helps us combat the ageing effects on the brain. A study carried out by the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus, a section of the brain used in verbal memory and learning.
After only two years, a study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference showed that people who improved their diet and level of exercise saw improvements in memory and other mental functions.
In addition to the mood and memory-boosting benefits of exercise, it can also boost our energy levels and our sense of creativity.
A study in Sweden found that workers who engaged in regular exercise were more productive than those who did not exercise at all.
Another study showed that aerobic exercise stimulates our imaginations. Have you ever had a sudden moment of clarity and come up with a fantastic idea while out walking, jogging or biking? If so then you’ve experienced this phenomenon firsthand. Just as exercising outside gives us exposure to vitamin D, inspiration can come from a simple change of scenery.
Anxious or depressed people often describe having a feeling of a lack of control in their lives, My advise would be to first try committing to a regular exercise to help regain a sense of power and boost feelings of self-worth. Even those of us who don’t suffer from depression or anxiety can benefit from exercise.
Interestingly, exercising by yourself can improve your body perception even if you don’t shed weight or improve muscle tone as a result.
Exercise is an important part of your overall health, it offers numerous physical and mental benefits for people of all ages and abilities. The next time you find your energy or mood lagging, put on your workout gear and sweat it out! Your body and mind will thank you later.