A lot of people have come to know the role exercise plays when it comes to staying healthy. But most of these benefits associated with exercise are physical as they speak to what exercise can do for the body. Very few people actually think exercise might be as good for the mind as it is for the body.
So, what if I told you that exercise while being good for the body, is also very important for dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental issues? Most of us have seen enough to know that exercise can be a too to improve your physique, improve your sex life, tone your abs and trim your waistline, and add more years to your lifespan. However, there are a host of other benefits associated with exercise that most people do not know of. Let’s see how exercise improves mental wellbeing.
Mental Benefits of Exercise
Extensive research has found out that meticulous and well-planned exercise can have far-reaching positive effects on the mental state of any individual. Not only can exercise give you a profound sense of well-being but it can also help improve memory and relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. The best part is that you need not over-exercise to reap these mental benefits. Research suggests that a modest but continuous amount of exercise is enough to reap these mental benefits.
Let’s discuss some of the mental benefits of exercise in small detail.
- Relieve Stress
This is arguably the most prevalent mental benefit of exercise. Stress is a mental issue but we can all agree that it has a very huge physical effect. For most people, stress comes with the aching of various body parts, most notably the neck, back, and head. Apart from these aches, one might also feel chest pain, muscle cramps, stomach aches, frequent urination, and diarrhea. All these symptoms require relaxing muscles and tension relief, and there is no better way of doing these than through exercise.
There is no doubt that exercise relaxes body muscles. Exercise increases the amount of norepinephrine secreted in the body. This chemical is essential when it comes to moderating the brain’s response to stress. This, in turn, relieves tension in the body and regulates the impact of stress on the body.
- Exercise and Depression
Classified as a mental health disorder, depression is a state of persistent sadness and/or loss of interest in activities. This disorder, if not attended to, can lead to a host of physical and behavioral symptoms, which can, in turn, lead to death. According to a recent study carried out by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a 15-minute run or 1-hour walk daily can reduce the mitigate the risk of acute depression by almost 26%.
Research into the role of exercise in mental wellness suggests that exercises such as running, walking, swimming, cycling dancing and gardening can be used to handle depression at its early stages. The reason for this is simple. Exercise increases blood circulation to the brain. This blood to the brain carries endorphins which are chemicals that help lift your spirits and make you feel good. Some researchers hold that exercise can even alleviate clinical depression and consider it to be a safer alternative to anti-depression medication, due to its lack of side effects. Simply put, exercise boosts the secretion of endorphins (happy chemicals) which help improve your mood. A 30-minute work out is enough to reap these benefits.
- Exercise and Self-Confidence
This one is self-explanatory. Many people suffer from stress and depression simply because of the way they look. They are unable to look in the mirror because they hate the way they look. Happiness and self-confidence are directly related. If you look good, you feel better about yourself and this inherently boosts your self-esteem. When you exercise, you look good and you feel good. This elevation of your own perception of how attractive you are, boosts your self-confidence. Happiness and self-confidence are directly related. The more self-confident you are, the happier you become.
- Boosts brain performance and improves memory
The role of exercise on brainpower cannot be undermined. Cardiovascular exercises, for example, cause neurogenesis – a creation of new brain cells. This process improves brain performance and concentration. Also, exercise strengthens the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory, thereby preventing memory loss and cognitive decline. Some studies also reveal that exercise improves creativity and mental energy. So, when next you are in need of some form of inspiration, consider jogging or working out a little.
- Regulates sleep patterns
Short but regular exercising in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. Gentle stretching or yoga can also help improve your sleep patterns and reduce amnesia. Exercise increases body temperature, which in turn calms the mind. Research also suggests that exercise helps to regulate our circadian rhythm, which controls when we are alert and when we are tired.
These are just some of the mental benefits associated with exercise. Apart from the aforementioned, exercise can also help control addiction, alleviate anxiety, enjoy the beauty in nature, and increase relaxation. The positive effects of taking a walk, jogging or working out at the gym reach far beyond the physical.
Exercise regularly so as to keep your body and mind healthy.
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