5 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
By Eliza Berry
Receptionist at Life Ready Physio Inglewood
The benefits of exercise have long been established – regular physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes, as well as strengthening our bones and muscles. But exercise also benefits our mental health, and in more ways than you might think!
- Stress relief
We’ve all heard it before – exercise can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, but how exactly does this happen? What if you’re stressed at the thought of exercising? Physical activity forces the body’s various systems to communicate with each other more efficiently, which means we are better equipped to deal with stress when it hits. The chemicals released during and after a workout can also help to alleviate anxieties. These benefits exist even if you force yourself into exercise when you don’t want to do it, so there’s no excuse!
- Mood booster
They say 30 minutes a day keeps the doctor – and psychologist – away, and they could be right. Exercise helps to produce the “happy chemicals” which stimulate pleasurable feelings in the brain. They give us drive and zest for life, and allow us to experience joy and even euphoria. We can increase these chemicals by doing things we love, getting outside, or doing aerobic exercise – this is where the term “runners’ high” originated from. We can also do it by eating chocolate, so next time you need a pick me up, consider getting active rather than reaching for other comforts!
- Increase in productivity
Have you experienced that post-exercise high where you instantly feel energised and ready to tick off every item on your to-do list? There’s a reason for that. Physical activity promotes blood flow to the brain and the production of chemicals which increase our motivation, alertness and focus. Exercise also enhances your ability to transfer glucose (energy) throughout your body, so a quick jog in your lunch break can be enough to avoid the 2pm slump.
- Increase in brain power
Engaging in regular aerobic exercise (such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling) three times a week is the single most important factor in preserving learning and memory abilities. This is especially true when we start to age. Getting your heart pumping appears to boost the parts of the brain related to long-term memory, problem-solving and learning, stimulates brain cell growth, and provides mental clarity. This means we can think faster, plan proactively and make decisions on the fly. While exercise can’t cure memory loss, it can help to prevent the brain fogginess that comes with age.
- Feelin’ good
Did you know that you would likely rate yourself as more attractive after a workout compared to before? That’s because just a single workout can be enough to improve your self-confidence. Getting stronger, leaner, faster or more competent at a chosen sport can provide a long-term boost to your self-esteem, which can then optimise your performance in other contexts. Even sticking to an exercise routine can allow a strong sense of accomplishment. So get up, get out there, and remember that a healthy body is a healthy mind!