July 8

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

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There are many different benefits to engaging in regular exercise, and most of us know most of them. From losing excess weight to getting fit and healthy, as well as lowering blood pressure, giving us more energy, and decreasing our chances of developing type II diabetes, there is a lot to be said for going out for a run, joining a gym glass, enjoying sporting activities, or following an online exercise video at home.

Yet there is one benefit that is often forgotten about when it comes to thinking why regular exercise is so important. This benefit is your mental health. Exercising on a regular basis will give your mental health a positive boost, and that’s something that we could all do with now and then. Read on to find out why exercise is such a great way to have better mental health, and you might even decide to start a whole new routine.

Tackles Depression And Anxiety 

Depression and anxiety are substantial mental health issues that plague society. Although there is much more understanding about these conditions today compared to how it was in the past, there is still something of a stigma attached, which can lead some people to choose to try to deal with their depression and anxiety by themselves.

It is always best to get help when trying to combat and come to terms with any kind of mental health disorder. In this way, you will always get the best advice, and you will have a structured plan in place to deal with the problems in your life. Plus, simply by talking things through, many people find they feel at least a little better.

Something else that many healthcare professionals will recommend when it comes to tackling depression and anxiety is exercise. This is because exercise is known to be a natural mood enhancer. When you exercise, the symptoms of both depression and anxiety will be reduced when the body starts to produce more endorphins, a scientifically proven positive chemical that is produced in the brain and is taken via neurotransmitters throughout the body, leaving a feeling of euphoria behind.

Many doctors will recommend exercise before any kind of medication is prescribed, as this is a natural way to achieve the same overall result.

Stress Relief 

Stress is another very common mental illness that more and more people are suffering from. Symptoms of stress include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or unfocused
  • Anger issues
  • Insomnia (or sleeping too much)
  • A constant feeling of worry
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease

Clearly, stress can take its toll both mentally and physically. Exercise, however, has been shown to reduce our stress levels, no matter how high they may have been to begin with. When you increase your heart rate, your body makes more norepinephrine and other neurohormones. These immediately improve the mood, and many people find their heads are clearer too.

Not only are these useful hormones making it easier to think, but so too is the act of focusing on the exercise you are doing. If you are concentrating on running, cycling, dancing, walking to a certain rhythm, following an instructor, or trying to beat your personal best, you won’t be thinking about all the things that are causing you stress and your mind will be less cluttered. This will make you feel happier, and it will also allow you to think more clearly when you go back to working out how to solve your problems.

More Self-Confidence 

Regular exercise gives those who participate in it any number of excellent physical achievements to be proud of. Weight loss is probably the first that will come to mind, but you can also increase your muscle tone, become more robust, and become fitter overall meaning that you can walk longer distances or not get out of breath so quickly.

All of these things can help to increase your self-confidence and in turn improve your mental health This is especially true when you set yourself a target and reach it; you might be saving money because you’re not buying so much takeout, or you may have rewarded yourself with better fitting clothing (in a smaller size), or perhaps you are walking to work much more quickly than you ever have before.

The better self-confidence you have, the less likely you are to suffer from debilitating mental health issues, and the happier you will be in your life. You will be more likely to take on challenges and seize opportunities, ensuring you are successful too.

Better Sleep

There’s one thing for sure about regular exercise; if you do it right, you’ll get tired. This is a good thing, especially if you sometimes have trouble sleeping. If you’re tired when you go to bed, you will get to sleep much more quickly, and stay asleep for longer. Plus your mind will be calmer, and that makes it easier to sleep too. When you wake up, you’ll actually feel rested (which may not be the case at the moment), and the day ahead will therefore be a more productive one.

When you exercise regularly, you can effectively reset your circadian rhythm, which may have fallen out of sync from too many late nights spent worrying about work, relationships, finances, and more. The circadian rhythm is what tells the brain it is time to sleep, and when it is time to wake up, like a personal alarm clock. If this is not working accurately, sleep can be hard to come by at night, but exhaustion can strike during the day.

A Boost For The Brain 

Exercise boosts the brain in a variety of different ways, including strengthening your memory and building greater intelligence. If you have a test coming up, exercising while studying is a great way to help the information sink in.

Yet there is more to it than anecdotes. Studies have shown that when you exercise, your brain creates new cells; it grows, in other words (this is known as neurogenesis).


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