Everyone knows that exercise brings benefits and improvements in your physical health. Perhaps less obvious, but equally true is that a workout gives your mental health a boosts too.
For some time experts and scientists have been looking at how exercising can boost brain function. What studies show is that regardless of age or fitness level, making time for exercise provides some significant mental benefits. So no matter whether you head out for a stroll, run a marathon or lift weights, exercise is going to give a boost between the ears too.
So read on for 8 ways that working out can benefit mental health and lead to a healthier and happier life overall!
Help Reduce Stress
Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. At its most simple you are diverting attention to a completely different activity. This lets your brain switch off from whatever is stressing you for a while. However, exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine. This is a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty — working out can reduce stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension.
Boost Happy Chemicals
A good workout can be tough going. But when the going gets tough, the body releases endorphins. This is a natural chemical which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. This is why doctors recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety make regular time for some exercise. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. This doesn’t have to be heading to the gym, any form of exercise that get you active 30 minute a few times a week will do the trick.
Head into the Outdoors
For an extra boost studies suggest that you should get out and exercise in the great outdoors. Find an outdoor workout that suits you. That could be a spot of hill walking, a run in the park or along the canal, or something more adventurous. Alternatively you get creative and use the outdoors to shape your workout – hills for HIIT sprints, picnic benches for push ups, etc.
Boost Your Self-Confidence
Many people workout to look and feel better. On a very basic level, increasing physical fitness can boost your self-esteem and improve your positive self-image. As you see improvements to your fitness you get both the boost of feeling better and the sense of achievement from knowing you have made these changes.
Sharpen Your Memory
Getting active increases production of cells in hippocampus which is responsible for memory and learning. That means that regular exercise boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Research has shown this to be true in children and adults alike. So getting active at playtime is great for kids, and adults should be making time to exercise too.
Keep your grey matter working in later life
Unfortunately it is the case that our brains do start to get a bit hazy as we get older. Plus there are degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s that can further affect our brains. While exercising can’t cure or prevent these effects, it can fortify your brain and help delay their impact. Exercise can boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the part of the brain that deals with memory and learning. This is similar to the effect that regular exercise has on our ability to stay active and maintain independence in later life.
Aid Relaxation and Sleep Better
Do you find it easier to drop off to sleep when you’ve exercised earlier? Even a moderate workout can be help you drop off more easily at night. Getting active five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature, and when it drops back to normal a few hours later it’s the natural signal to your body to go to sleep.
Be More Productive
Feeling uninspired in the office? Perhaps a short walk or jog could help. Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. Some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout. It may be tricky to fit that into your schedule, but getting away from your desk for 15 minute walk will do.