When we think of exercise, our minds quickly think about getting physically fit. However, did you know that exercise also has plenty of mental health benefits as well?

Many of us work out to improve our physiques and appearance. Sure, it gives you a slimmer waistline, bigger biceps, and some cool looking abs. What’s more, it can help improve your cardiovascular system and prolong your life. These are just some of the many physical benefits of exercise.

But what many people don’t realize is that exercise also boosts one’s mental health. Think of that time you hit the gym or jogging around the block, chances are, you came out feeling pretty good with yourself.

This proves that exercise can and does have an effect on our mental state. It can help you sleep better at night, put you in a good mood to start the day, give you better memory, as well as improve certain mental conditions.

What’s more, you don’t have to be ripped to enjoy the mental benefits of exercising. Something as small as 30 minutes of exercise can already have a huge impact on your mental wellbeing.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the mental health benefits of exercising and why you should make exercise part of your daily routine.

Alleviate Stress

One of the natural body responses to external events that cause us to feel threatened includes feelings of discomfort as well as experiencing intense emotions. Stress can also translate to physical problems such as a loss of appetite, lack of sleep, and feelings of anxiety.

These symptoms occur when the stress hormones are released in our bodies, which may also cause a sharp rise in blood pressure. These hormones also cause an increase in the heart rate and rate of breathing. All of these symptoms also cause the fight or flight response.

If you’ve been under pressure for a long time and you feel like you just need time off, exercise can help you get rid of stress. Furthermore, exercising causes our brains to release more of the chemical norepinephrine, which helps the brain regulate how it responds to stress. This allows you to better handle mental pressure.

So, the next time you’re feeling like your mind is heavy, go for a jog or hit the gym.

But exercise does more than just alleviate stress, it can also relieve your anxiety. When you engage in a physical activity that you enjoy, such as hopping on the treadmill or lifting weights, the brain releases feel-good hormones known as endorphins.

These help you to relax and thus reduce the symptoms of anxiety. When you are less anxious you are able to make more rational and healthy decisions allowing you to make the most of your workout and also make positive choices throughout your day.

Perhaps one of the best illustrations of the effects of exercise or lack thereof on our moods occurs when you stop exercising for a time after you have been exercising on a regulator basis. You’ll quickly notice that your mood changes when you miss workout sessions. Therefore, it pays to be consistent both to the body and the mind.

A Great Anti-depressant

When you exercise, you’ll immediately notice that your mood changes–you’ll feel happier and less depressed. This is because exercise triggers our brains to release endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones. This explains the euphoria that many people feel after hitting the gym.

Many people are dealing with an emotional issue caused by depression. If you’re experiencing the same thing, the best solution is, along with exercising, is to seek counseling from Portneuf Valley Family Center or any licensed psychiatrist.

Two main hormones–serotonin and norepinephrine–are known to help relieve depression. Exercise can help the brain become sensitive to these hormones, which means a quicker and more effective recovery from depression.

In many instances, exercise can be just as effective as anti-depressants. The great thing is that you don’t have to worry about any side effects. So, if you’re feeling blue or depressed, just head on to the gym or go for a jog around the block. In just 30 minutes, you’ll notice that your mood will change.

Boosting Self Esteem

All of us have an image of how we perceive ourselves and our attractive levels. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t satisfied with how we look.

Exercise improves how we look at ourselves, helping boost our self-esteem. If you’re fit, then you’re more likely to have high self-esteem than if you don’t like how your body looks. High self-esteem improves your confidence, allowing you to interact with others and to take on daily challenges with vigor. So, exercise helps change our bodies, which then helps improve our self-esteem and self-perception.

When exercising, you can take things to the next level by taking your training outside. You can do this by finding a physical activity that you enjoy doing and combining with an outdoorsy experience.

For instance, you can take a hike, go for a jog, or even do rock climbing. The added experience will help keep your mind stimulated and can help boost self-esteem as you set goals and achieve them.

Reduces Cognitive Degeneration

To live a healthy and normal life, we need to be of a stable mind. Only then can we make rational decisions as well as lead full and happy lives. This means that any mental illnesses or impairment can quickly lower one’s quality of life.

As we grow older, our minds and brains start to lose cells, which may result in diseases such as Alzheimer’s. From 45 years of age and above, our brain starts to experience cell loss and degeneration. The best time to start exercising is in your younger years–from 25 years old.

Granted that exercise and even following a healthy diet may not completely eliminate the degeneration that our brains experience over the years, however, chemicals released during exercise can help slow down the rate of cell loss, ensuring a healthier and fully functioning brain.

Boosting Brain Power

Exercise will not only slow down the rate of brain cell degeneration but it can also help create new cells.

Taking part in cardiovascular exercise has been shown to increase the number of cells, resulting in better cognitive performance. This is done through the release of chemicals that boost the production of brain cells.

One of the main points to keep in mind is that during exercise, more blood is pumped to the brain, thus increasing brain activity. What’s more, as exercise can help prevent chronic illnesses that can affect brain function, you’re able to maintain a healthy brain through exercise. So, if you’ve been experiencing slow brain function, you may just want to hit the gym.

Furthermore, cells produced in the hippocampus after exercise are responsible for a higher capacity brain function, including improved memory. This is one more reason why you need to create a regular training schedule and stick to it as you grow older.

Controlling Addiction

There are many things that people can be addicted to, such as sex, drugs, and alcohol. It’s well known that some of the substances that caused the addiction will eventually cause harm to our body.  But do you know why people get addicted in the first place?

One of the reasons for addiction is the pleasant feeling that’s experienced after using a drug or substance, enabling your brain to release the feel-good hormone, dopamine.

By engaging in exercise, you can provide your body with a distraction from dangerous substances. Furthermore, it’s not surprising for the brain to release feel-good hormones after working out. Thus, exercising can be your new high, and the great thing is that you don’t have to worry about adverse effects.

Better Sleep

Lack of sleep can negatively affect our mental health. Too much pressure in our minds may even result in physical illness and conditions. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that we get a sufficient amount of sleep every night.

Have you ever wondered why after hitting the gym in the evening, you feel like you want to hit the sheets? This is because working out and exercising increases the body’s core temperature.  When the temperature comes back down to normal, it’ll signal your body that it’s time to sleep.  

Even if you’re suffering from insomnia, one of the ways that you can achieve sufficient sleep at night is by exercising, especially in the evening.

But is there a preferred type of exercise to help with your sleep quality? Both resistance training and aerobic exercises have been shown to be effective at improving the quality of sleep.

Boost Productivity

Sitting in front of a desk all day and all week can drain your energy levels; you’ll feel less inspired and productive. What’s more, it’s not surprising to experience feelings of fatigue even while not having engaged in strenuous physical activity. Note that this may be caused by chronic fatigue syndrome, which is a condition that can be effectively treated with exercise.

Moreover, people who suffer from degenerative illnesses will also experience a boost in energy through exercise, making them more productive. While it may not be the cure, exercise can help slow down the rate of degeneration, ensuring a fuller healthier overall life.

A great way to boost your productivity is to workout. This can help increase not just a worker’s energy but also their total productivity and output. Consequently, this will put you in good graces with your superiors while also helping improve the bottom line of the organization you’re working for.

That said, you may wonder how you’re going to exercise when running a busy schedule. For one, you could take advantage of your lunch break to do some press-ups or take a walk.

Getting Inspired

If you spend a lot of your time in the office or your live a sedentary lifestyle, you may begin to notice that you’re less inspired. If you’re searching for new ways of performing tasks, you may find that hitting the gym was all you needed.

Exercise can also provide you with the inspiration that you need to take things to the next level. Whether you’re searching for business ideas or are looking for your next big art inspiration, exercise can be a great catalyst.

One of the ways that exercise give you inspiration is that it’ll improve your cognitive abilities, causing you to become more creative. Exercise does this by stimulating various neurological functions and boosting overall brain function.

Even better is combining exercise with an outdoor activity, such as running or hiking. Who knows, you may just stumble upon a new idea that you could incorporate into your daily life.

Inspiring Others

Getting inspiration is just one of the mental benefits of exercise. That said, did you know that you could also be a source of inspiration to others? This can be a great motivation to keep exercising and doing what you do.

Keep in mind that it’s far better to exercise with a gym partner than to do it alone. Since both of you have similar goals, you can help keep each other motivated. Exercising with a partner increases an individual’s tolerance for pain. This can translate to faster results, helping both you and your partner to achieve the ideal physique.

As far as the mind goes, having a higher tolerance for pain means that you can push your body towards releasing those feel-good hormones as well as alleviating stress and anxiety much better. After all, the harder you can push yourself, the faster you can get over the effects of stress and mental strain.

Final Thoughts

Regular exercise does not only do great for your physical health but it’s also an important component to ensure a stable and healthy mental state. The great thing is that both aerobics and resistant training can work. This means that you don’t have to spend energy searching for the perfect training routine. This makes it easier for everyone to reap the mental benefits of exercise.