The Mental Health Benefits of Being Physically Fit
Science is continuously showing us the benefits of exercise – from stronger muscles and bones to improving your heart, regular exercise is a no-brainer to maintain overall health.
But did you know about the psychological benefits of exercise? Your brain is like any other organ and reaps the reward of exercise as well. In fact, research suggests that your brain creates new connections as a result of exercise.
The benefits of being physically fit are abundant and are equally impressive to your mental health.
Read on to discover some perks of exercising for mental health.
Exercise Improves Your Mood
Endorphins are chemicals in our brains produced by the pituitary gland that are responsible for those happy feelings. When we exercise endorphins are released causing feelings of happiness. These endorphins are so powerful, that some doctors recommend exercise as a treatment for those suffering from anxiety and depression.
Even if you’re not suffering from a mental illness, a quick 20-30 minute walk outside or on the treadmill can give your mood a positive jolt.
Improved Self Esteem
Exercise builds strength and self-esteem. When you know that you look better, you gain more confidence. And that self-esteem can do wonders for your brain by enlightening our mood and generating positivity about ourselves.
Simply, the accomplishment of starting and completing an exercise routine can be enough to gain a self-esteem high. Though you probably don’t notice it while you’re huffing and puffing and sweating!
Ward Off Cognitive Diseases
Aging brings about some unpleasantness, such as loss of vision or hearing, but the brain suffers as well.
Your brain begins its decline in your mid-forties, but exercising in your 20s and 30s can produce chemicals that protect your brain from devastating diseases like Alzheimer’s. There’s no guarantee that exercise will help you avoid Alzheimer’s, but there’s evidence that suggests it may defend against it.
Get Smarter And More Creative
When you exercise, oxygen and other nutrients are delivered to your brain that helps it function better. Participating in a cardio exercise even creates new brain cells.
Similarly, after a workout, your creativity is boosted for up two hours afterward! So if you need your creative juice, hit the trail or hop on a bike to rev them up.
Boost Memory Skills
The hippocampus is the area of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory. With routine exercise, the brain creates new cells in the hippocampus. This means that aerobic activity can help ward off dementia (though not guaranteed) if you exercise during your earlier years.
Feeling the brain fog set in? A quick walk around the office or block might be the solution to clearing it out. Research shows that workers who exercise regularly have increased energy and accomplish more at work.
Nearly 44% of Americans are stressed and only 27% of them are happy with their current amount of exercise. To combat stress, hit the gym or turn on a workout video, as exercise is an excellent stress reliever.
Endorphins are not the only chemical released during a workout. Another chemical called norepinephrine manages how the brain responds to stress. Norepinephrine is released in large amounts during physical activity.
Therapy For Addiction Recovery
Dopamine is the chemical our brain releases that acts a reward chemical. It’s released upon our gratification of anything, including harmful substances like drugs and alcohol. For those dealing with addiction, exercise can replace the need for substance abuse by releasing dopamine in a more healthy activity.
Exercise may not be an end-all for addiction treatment, but it can work as a supplemental therapy.
Yoga And Meditation
While some forms of yoga may not increase your heart rate or help you craft that chiseled physique, the simple act of meditating and stretching still has mental health benefits.
Cortisol and adrenaline are stress hormones. When we face a stressful situation – a presentation at work, or we’ve lost a child in the playground – these hormones are released. After the moment of stress has passed, hormones are normalized.
The trouble happens when the stress is consistent. An overexposure to cortisol and adrenaline contribute to weight gain (particularly in the abdominal region) and high blood pressure.
By incorporating a yoga routine hand-in-hand with meditation, your stress hormone levels can decrease significantly, resulting in a more peaceful frame of mind.
I’m Convinced! But How Much Exercise Do I Need?
There’s no one ‘right’ amount of exercise. It will depend largely on age, skill level, and doctors orders.
A typical recommended time would be anywhere between 20-30 minutes of exercise 3-5 days a week. You can choose any activity, but try to fit in cardio, like brisk walking or jogging. Anything that gets your heart pumping is also good for your brain.
You can always use bodybuilding supplements to increase your results.
Taking that walk, run, or bike ride outside can be an added bonus. Your brain loves the fresh air and the green scenery is thought to improve your brain power after being outside for just 15 minutes.
And don’t go at it alone! Bring along a buddy or two, or join a class at the gym – studies show that having an exercise partner actually helps people execute their fitness goals better than doing it alone.
Be sure to consult your doctor if you’re unsure about the amount of exercise you need.
Benefits of Being Physically Fit For Your Brain
The benefits of being physically fit transcend the look of our bodies. Whether we are pumping it hard at the gym, walking with our dog, or partaking in yoga and meditation, we’re feeding our brains with the essential nutrients and chemicals it needs to maintain our mental health.
Now that you know how much your brain loves exercise, find a routine or activity you love and start working out today!
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