7 Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise

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Now, we've all heard that exercise is good for you. We've all been told that you need to move your body and we know that exercise is good for physical fitness and that it helps to reduce physical diseases such as heart disease and stroke but what you may not know is that exercise is not just good for your body. It's good for your brain. So today, I'm going to give you 7 mental health benefits of exercise.


7 Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise: How Exercise Improves Physical and Mental Health

1. Exercise Reduces Stress

When you exercise, you increase the blood flow to the brain and this enhances your body's production of norepinephrine which is an organic chemical or neurotransmitter that helps to regulate stress.

Exercising also helps to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, so when you're feeling stressed or at the end of a hard day's work. In order to exercise, you don't have to put on expensive gym clothes and go work out for an hour and a half.

You can do something as simple as taking the stairs, or going for a 15-minute walk, or doing some push-ups in the corner, anything to get your blood flowing.  Be sure to watch my video on 5 ways stress affects your health.


2. Exercise Decreases Anxiety and Depression

Studies have proven that exercise can reduce anxiety and depression. Here's what happens. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are your body's natural hormone that makes you feel good. It's like a feel-good hormone and it gives you a natural high and it makes you feel less pain and it makes you feel euphoria. So exercising by releasing this hormone automatically can make you feel happier.

When you exercise, you also increase your release of serotonin which also is a neurotransmitter that can help you to feel happier. One study, in particular, showed that when people either ran for 15 minutes or walked for one hour, they had increased self-reported happiness. It actively was correlated with less depression. Watch my YouTube video on 5 life-altering types of anxiety disorders after you finish this article.


3. Exercise Can Improve Your Self-Esteem

Who doesn't want high self-esteem? When you exercise and you get more physically fit and you feel like you're more attractive, you tend to feel better about yourself.

It boosts your confidence. Also, the endorphins in and of themselves can increase your confidence and your feeling of self-worth.  Participating in group activities such as team sports fosters more socialization which can also boost your self-esteem.


mental health benefits of exercise


4. Exercise Can Improve Your Memory

That's right, it can actually help you to remember things more. Studies have shown that there is a direct link between people who exercise and people who have better memories. When you exercise, you increase your body's production of BDNF.

That's a brain-derived neurotrophic factor and what this does is helps to protect and to restore neurons. It also helps your body to process information better. It's better for your learning. It can help your memory. So if you want to help to enhance your memory, get on up and exercise.


5. Exercise Improves Creativity And Focus

When you exercise and you increase your body's neurotransmitter, that norepinephrine, it increases your concentration. People who exercise tend to have more brain energy, they tend to have more creative juices and they can focus and get more done. So the next time you have writer's block or if you just can't get your mind going to do whatever creative things you need to do or to focus, get up, go for a jog, go for a brisk walk and this may help your creativity and focus.


6. Exercise Can Help To Decrease Addiction

You can be addicted to many things, drugs, alcohol, you can be addicted to chocolate, or to food. When you have addiction especially some drug addictions, your body is looking for dopamine which helps you to feel euphoria. Well, when you exercise and your body produces that natural high via endorphins, this can give your body that euphoria that it is looking for. While exercise certainly does not replace any drug addiction program or any mental health counseling, it certainly can help. So try to exercise in order to help to decrease addiction.


7. Exercise Can Help To Improve Brain Aging

As we get older, our brain shrinks, we're more forgetful, we have that memory loss and we tend to concentrate less. This is just a part of life. As you get older, your memory decreases, and some people are actually predisposed to dementia or Alzheimer's.

If you exercise, you can enhance your memory. You can produce that chemical that helps to protect your neurons and to restore your neurons and you can also actually enhance the cells in your hippocampus which is a part of your brain that is essential for good memory.

Exercise also promotes your prefrontal cortex which also aids in memory and so in order to maximize your brain health and your memory as you get older, you definitely want to exercise.


benefits of exercise on the body



Remember, to achieve these mental health benefits of exercise, you don't have to exercise for hours and hours in order for it to count. You don't have to have an expensive gym membership. The optimal exercise is 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to intense cardiovascular activity five days a week. Even if you get in three to four days a week, it will definitely enhance your mental health, and remember, exercise does not have to be consecutive. You can do a 10-minute walk during your lunch break or you can take the stairs up and down for 10 minutes and you can get a cumulative daily exercise of 30 minutes but break it up in increments.

You can do yoga stretches. You can do sit-ups. You can do a nice little brisk jog. You can come up with many ways to exercise, even cleaning your house. You can vacuum and put some oomph into it and make it a cardiovascular activity. The key is to make sure that you take care of yourself by doing exercise and it will help to improve your mental health.

Dr. Frita - Frita McRae Fisher, M.D.
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