Brain & Body: Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

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Exercise is a great way to stay healthy and even build muscle, but did you know it can also enhance your mental health? Individuals who exercise regularly tend to have a better mood and outlook on life. In fact, staying active can help decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Keep reading to learn how physical activity can enhance your mental and emotional well-being.

Reduces Stress

One of the main benefits of exercise is that it can help lower stress and decrease tension levels Stress can affect the body physically and mentally in many ways. For example, it can cause headaches, stomachaches, insomnia, a tightness in the chest and tense muscles in the neck, back and shoulders. 

Not only does exercise help control cortisol levels (a stress hormone), but it also improves blood flow. This is key, as stress can lead to insufficient blood flow to the heart. Moreover, physical activity essentially forces the body’s sympathetic and central nervous systems to interact, which enhances the body’s ability to handle stress. 

Decreases Depression and Anxiety

Physical activity is a mood booster. This is because it increases the production of feel-good endorphins in the brain as well as reduces stress hormones. This enables you to experience feelings of happiness and euphoria. 

Moderate exercise throughout the week helps improve your sense of well-being. In fact, some doctors may even recommend trying a workout routine before trying medication for depression and/or anxiety. 

Improves Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

Exercise lets you set and meet personal goals, whether that means building muscle, losing weight or toning your body. These achievements can help you feel more confident in yourself and your body image. This is because staying active takes dedication, commitment and discipline. Additionally, it can provide you with a sense of control and gives you something to look forward to in your day. 

Boosts Memory

Did you know that physical activity can help strengthen your memory and concentration? For example, one study revealed that exercise training can help increase the size of the hippocampus and boost memory. Staying active is a great way to protect your brain from cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 

Enhances Sleep

Anxiety and depression can often disrupt your sleep. However, you can skip the sheep counting and try working out to get a good night’s rest. This is because exercise increases the body’s temperature, which provides a calming effect on the mind. Moreover, physical activity regulates your circadian rhythm. This is the body’s built-in alarm clock that cycles between sleepiness and alertness. 

Exercise doesn’t have to mean running laps around a track or lifting weights. You can stay active in a variety of ways, including practicing yoga or Pilates, going for daily walks, swimming and cycling. Best of all, it doesn’t have to be strenuous or time-consuming. Aim for about 1.25 to 2.5 hours of physical activity each week. 

For more information on how exercise can enhance mental and emotional well-being, see the accompanying resource.

This infographic was created by Reclaim Fitness, a fitness facility with fitness coach services

Dan Borucki is an ISSA Certified Fitness Coach and Personal Trainer at Reclaim Fitness. He is committed to providing a level of service that is focused on the individual, whatever his or her needs and goals may be. Borucki strives to encourage, support and challenge his clients to feel stronger, healthier and more confident.

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