How Regular Exercise Improves Your Mental Health

September 25, 2015
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Description: Regular exercise not only impacts your physical well-being. Here are four mental aspects that exercise affects.

You might have known by now how exercise can improve your physical health. Regularly working out can help you maintain an ideal weight. It can enable you to build bigger muscles, burn off excess fats, and stay in tip-top shape. But do you also realize that exercise is one of the best and most effective ways of improving your mental health?

Regularly working out has a profound effect on every aspect of your emotional well-being. It can boost your mood, and make you sleep better. It is unlikely that you will have bouts of depression and anxiety if you work out every day. And you will also have a sharper memory with little regular exercise.

Regardless of your age or fitness level, you can rely on regular workouts to improve your emotional health and consequently improve the quality of your life.

Here are some ways by which exercise can benefit your emotional well-being:

1. Eases Stress and Anxiety

Eases Stress and Anxiety - GymMembershipFeesYes, working out in the gym like Planet Fitness or Soul Cycle won’t sweep away all your troubles but it does help you cope with stress. For many people, lifting weights, running several miles, and engaging in sports can aide them in releasing their anger and pent up frustration.

Science offers different explanations as to why regular exercise can ease stress and anxiety. One reason is that regularly sweating it out prompts the release of feel-good brain chemicals like neurotransmitters and endorphins. It can also reduce chemicals in the immune system that worsen depression, while the increase in body temperature due to exercise has calming effects.

And we’re not talking of anecdotes here, as numerous studies have shown that regular exercise does ease stress and anxiety.

One study made by researchers at Princeton University discovered that regular exercise reorganizes the brain, affecting its response to stress and anxiety. In the study, the researchers said that when mice that are allowed to regularly exercise experience a stressor, their brains showed a spike in the activity of neurons which shut off excitement in the region of the brain that regulates anxiety.

Scientists and psychologists suggest that a 10 minute walk every day may be as effective as a 45 minute workout in relieving anxiety and depression.

Several studies have shown that exercise can quickly elevate depression in many people. Other experiments have shown that people who regularly exercise were up to 25 percent less likely to be depressed or develop an anxiety disorder over the next five years compared to those who live a sedentary lifestyle.

2. Sharpens Brainpower

The same endorphins that help you cope with stress can make you feel mentally sharp. Exercise has also been proven to stimulate the growth of new cells in the brain aside from preventing age-related decline.

In one recent study, scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that regular physical activity, or at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise like jogging and swimming weekly, can increase brain activity and induce greater white matter volume in adults.

Their study involved 100 adults aged 60 to 80 years old who had no history of psychiatric or neurologic ailment. The participants were asked to wear accelerometers to track their movements and record their exercises for a week. After that week they underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scans so that the scientists can see how blood oxygen levels in the brain changed over time.

The researchers found that there were more moment-to-moment fluctuations in the brain’s activity in adults who were more active. They also said that greater white matter volume was observed among adults who were more physically active.

3. Improves Sleep

You should never pass up on the opportunity to exercise in the morning or afternoon even for short periods, as regularly exercising can aid in regulating your sleep patterns.

A recent study published in the Mental Health and Physical Activity journal showed that people who get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week can sleep significantly better than those who don’t get that much amount of physical exertion.

The study took into account the cases of 2,600 men and women between the ages of 18 to 85 years old. Results showed that those who exercise 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity weekly were up to 65 percent more likely to have better sleep. Plus they also felt less sleepy during the day as compared to those who don’t exercise a lot.

4. Boosts Energy

It’s easy to assume that regularly working out can tire you out and leave you lethargic for the rest of the day. But the truth is that exercising creates more energy in your body.   By doing so, you’d have enough vigor to attend to your day-to-day activities without experiencing any dips in energy levels.

With these benefits of exercise on mental health, why wouldn’t you get into a regular exercise program?

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