Exercise is a simple but effective method for upping your mood and making your body feel good. Sometimes, it might seem impossible to muster up the energy necessary to get to the gym, especially after a long day at work. However, various mental benefits of exercise should not be ignored. In this article, we will focus specifically on six important mental benefits of exercise.
There is no shame in being tired and unmotivated to exercise. And if you suffer from mental illness, the challenges of starting an exercise routine can be even more pronounced.
But getting your body active will make you feel better, not only physically, but mentally. Really, any kind of movement can be beneficial for you.
Whether you decide to walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or you decide to add some light stretching into your morning routine. It all counts.
You can help your mental health tremendously with a bit of regular exercise. However, if you want to get more serious about exercising you can experience further gains, as explained in the remainder of this article.
6 Mental Benefits Of Exercise
Whatever you decide to do to increase movement in your life, know that you are not only helping your body look better, but you are also helping it operate better.
In this article, we will go in-depth on the benefits of exercise for your mental health. This way you can get yourself moving and take advantage of the mental benefits it has to offer.
1. Lower Levels Of Stress
Stress is a common issue faced by societies all around the globe. Most adults report feelings of stress or anxiety on a daily basis.
Furthermore, many have said that stress interferes with their life and daily function. The truth is that stress affects all individuals, and when you don’t have a way to manage that stress, you put yourself at risk mentally and physically.
There is a mental burden associated with stress. You tax your mind and your wellbeing when you get caught up in it.
Long term stress can be especially bad for your mental health. In time, you could develop anxiety or depression disorders.
Even worse, you can put wear and tear on your body. Eventually, your health will be affected and your life could be shortened.
This is why you need a way to reduce stress so you can be healthy in both body and mind.
Exercise is a known way to combat stress. Furthermore, exercise is one of the main benefits for your mental health.
Scientists have thoroughly studied the effects of exercise and stress.
When you exercise, you release endorphins. Endorphins promote body relaxation and up your energy levels.
When your body feels better, your mind can relax and let go of stress more easily. The long term benefits of exercise are numerous and well documented. So if you’re feeling stressed, try exercising.
2. Better Sleep Quality
Another one of the known mental health benefits of exercise is improved sleep quality. Sleep is a cornerstone of mental health. Without sleep, your mind becomes fractured and unstable.
Furthermore, with poor sleep, you lower your ability to handle stress and other challenges in your life.
In short, you need a good night of sleep to stay healthy! So how does exercise play into sleep?
Sleep operates on a cycle. It has various stages and functions.
When your body is active in the day, you are able to enter deeper levels of sleep at night. In particular, you can enter a stage of deep sleep.
Deep sleep is a sleep stage that restores and revitalizes your body and mind. When you exercise you can enter this stage more easily, and stay in it much longer.
Deep sleep helps with stress, anxiety levels, heart health and a host of other health issues.
If you want to experience these benefits you need to exercise. Sleep doesn’t always seem important, but it might have more of an impact than you realize.
3. Lower Levels Of Depression
Depression levels are on the rise worldwide. And this epidemic shows no signs of stopping. So how can you deal with this mental health issue on an individual level?
One of the most effective ways to prevent and even treat depression is through exercise. When you are depressed, the last thing you want to do is exercise. But choosing to exercise is one of the main benefits and can make all the difference in your mental health.
For years, mental health experts have researched the effects of physical activity on depression levels. Numerous studies have shown that exercise can indeed help with depression.
In some cases, it can be just as effective as prescription medication. If you have moderate or mild depression, exercise can relieve your depression symptoms.
You have to be consistent and dedicated, but if you don’t want the side effects of anti-depressants this is one effective treatment method.
Even if you don’t have depression, moving can help you. Just fifteen minutes of walking a day can significantly reduce your risk of developing major depression.
4. Lower Levels Of Anxiety
Another one of the benefits of exercise on mental health is helping to reduce anxiety.
Anxiety has also been on the rise in recent years. More and more people are affected by anxiety disorders and general feelings of anxiety.
As with depression, anxiety and the effects of exercise have been well studied.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder or are just prone to being anxious, try exercising more frequently. Physical activity is known to reduce levels of tension in the body and by extension your mind.
Exercise keeps you in the moment and focused on a task. This can divert you from anxious thoughts, and further stress and mental strain.
With a regular exercise routine, you can help keep your body and your mind in check. Even doing five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
It can be hard to exercise when you are on edge, but when you choose to take that first step and exercise, you help stabilize your mood.
In addition to feeling happier and less depressed, exercising can make you feel less anxious and can move you towards a more centered emotional state.
5. Improves Memory and Cognitive Health
You might not realize this, but exercise can also improve your cognitive health.
Think about it, when you exercise your body is pumping blood and oxygen rapidly through your whole body. This includes your brain.
When you have more blood and oxygen in your brain, it can produce more neurons and neural connections. This is a process known as neurogenesis.
As these connections and neurons are being made throughout the brain, it helps improve memory and your ability to think and process information.
In the long term, exercise can even slow down the effects of aging on the brain and act as a buffer against dementia. Even just beyond these long term effects, exercise releases endorphins, which boost focus and cognition for a short amount of time.
It is important for your brain to stay sharp and continue to grow. Exercise is an ideal way to improve your mind and has tremendous benefits on your mental health.
6. Help You Cope With Life Challenges
Exercise does a lot for your mental health, it can even help you in your most challenging moments.
From time to time, you might face a life crisis.
Maybe you fought with a friend or spouse. Maybe a job isn’t going as well as you want it to. Or maybe you are in the midst of divorce or loss.
Whatever the situation, you need ways to cope.
In times like these, it might be easier to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking, smoking, overeating or other negative behaviors.
However, these actions make you feel good in the moment, but they can lead you towards an even worse mental state in the long run.
Exercise, on the other hand, can provide many mental benefits and help prevent a downward spiral. It can help you stay resilient in the face of a difficult situation.
As previously mentioned, exercise shields you against the effects of stress. It can also take your mind off negative and anxious thoughts.
When you can better control your mood and let off steam through exercise, your mental health has a better chance of staying intact.
People from all walks of life use exercise to cope with their problems. Many studies have also studied exercise as a coping method. By and large, scientists agree that exercise can improve your mental health and resiliency during hard times.
How Much Should You Exercise?
Health experts typically recommend around one-hundred and fifty minutes of moderate exercise per week. However, this definitely doesn’t have to be done all at once.
You aren’t even required to hit the gym to meet requirements, though the gym is a great place to get some exercise in.
A simple walk around the neighborhood each day can do wonders and help you get your activity quota in. Or if you are feeling up to it, some light yard work and housework can count towards your 150 minutes.
Again, even if you don’t meet these requirements fully, any kind of physical activity can improve your mental health marginally.
Those who exercise regularly each week are more likely to have a better quality of life. People who exercise are also less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health ailments.
Take the initiative to do some physical activity one day at a time. Before you know it, you will begin to feel the benefits of exercise in both your mental and physical state.
The realization that there are 86,400 seconds each day. What are you doing today, so that tomorrow you are a step closer to where you want to be? If not now, then when?
eightysixfourhundred, make them count
Facts for this article were referenced from credible sources including:
- HelpGuide – The Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise
- Social Benefits Of Exercise (6 Ways Exercise Makes You Social)
- Running Before Breakfast (Benefits Of Early Morning Exercise)
- How To Get Fit Without A Gym? (7 Gym Alternatives To Stay Active)
- 20 Benefits Of Walking Every Day (Some Might Surprise You)
- Motivation To Eat Healthy (6 Fact-Based Reasons To Eat Healthy)