How Exercise Affects Mental Health

Everyone knows that physical activity is important for keeping our minds and bodies healthy. But what about our mental health? What role does exercise play in our emotional well-being? According to new research, regular physical activity can positively impact our mental health. The benefits come from the simple act of moving throughout the day. In fact, it seems that the more often we exercise, the better off we are.

Endorphins released during exercise make you feel good and boost your mood. Additionally, a 2010 study found that people who exercised had higher levels of endocannabinoids in their blood; these substances regulate stress response and mood by affecting the neurotransmitter responsible for happiness, called anandamide (AEA).

Anandamide is produced naturally in response to stress, but when stress becomes chronic, our body may begin producing less of it. Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids manufactured within our bodies and have similar effects to those produced by plants known as phytocannabinoids. So by exercising more often, you’re helping to keep your endocannabinoid system regulated — which positively affects your overall well-being!

But unfortunately, taking some time for yourself can be difficult when you feel so caught up with work and family obligations. Still, a little bit of self-care never hurts anyone, right?

According to the American Psychological Association, consistently exercising has been associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety. So let’s explore some of the ways that regular exercise can benefit your mental health:

Physiological Benefits

People tend to think of exercise as a way to lose weight or build muscle. Still, it has many physiological benefits that affect not only the body but the mind as well.

Studies show that exercise can significantly improve sleep quality.Exercise helps you reach the deepest stages of sleep, called slow-wave sleep, which is the best time for the body to repair itself and improve mental and physical health. During these restorative phases, you will experience a boost to your immune system, your cardiac health, and your muscle repair.

Furthermore, regular exercise has been shown to increase cognitive function and protect against age-related decline. On a biological level, exercise helps the body produce hormones that inevitably upgrade the brain!

So, listen up…

If you’re feeling down or like age is taking its toll on your body and mind, remember that a little exercise, done regularly, may be just what you need to boost your mood and overall wellbeing!

How Exercise Affects Mental Health 1

Psychological Benefits

Besides the obvious physiological benefits that manifest on a biological level, the effects of exercise directly impact your psyche.

Let’s have a look!

Improved Self-Esteem

One of the most important psychological benefits of exercising and being in good shape is drastically improved self-esteem. A study in Iran found that aerobic exercises increased self-esteem among female adolescents without families. Participants were split into two groups: those who engaged in aerobic exercises like running and those who didn’t.

The aerobic group showed greater self-esteem than the control group. However, finding a definitive link between aerobic activity and improved mental health was difficult. The study authors noted that there was no clear relationship between aerobic exercise and mental health, but the findings indicate that physical activity improves mood and self-esteem.

So you see, there is a reason that so many people enjoy working out. When you are in good shape and have been working out regularly, you just feel better about yourself. You feel more confident and like you can take on the world (especially when you have your pump on.)

This is a great feeling, and it is one that you should strive to experience. There is nothing like the confidence and self-esteem you can get from peak performance and supreme physical aesthetics!

Mental Resilience

Fitness training can help you be more physically tough. That’s a given. When you do a lot of fitness training, your body gets tougher and can handle more loads and pain. The same thing happens with your mind.

When used to doing hard things, it becomes stronger and can handle more stress. Certainly, training isn’t all there is to mental resilience and facing challenges, but it does help! If you are just getting into exercise, do expect to feel this very soon!

Mind-Body Connection

Nowadays, most people are disconnected from their bodies. We lead busy lives and are constantly on the go. We eat unhealthy foods, don’t get enough exercise, and don’t take the time to connect with our bodies.

Perhaps, one of the best ways to boost your mind-body connection is through training. When you engage in regular physical activity, your body and brain start working together in a more coordinated way, ultimately overcoming the load they are going through.

This improved communication can lead to better overall health and wellbeing and enhanced cognitive function. In case you feel like you’re neglecting your body… Go to the gym!

Exercise improves memory

Research shows that moderate to high-intensity physical activity can improve memory and cognitive functions. Studies show that exercise enhances episodic memory, which is the ability to bind events, people, and places together.

Exercise can also improve spatial navigation, which helps the brain recall daily events. This is important for learning and memory. In addition to improving cognitive function, exercise improves mood.

Cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow to the brain. Blood flow to the brain is essential for healthy cognitive function, and poor blood flow can compromise memory and cognition. Exercise also increases brain volume. Studies have shown that moderate exercise improves brain volume for six months or more.

Reduced symptoms of anxiety

Studies have found that exercise can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Exercise increases levels of endorphins, reduces cortisol, and produces brain chemicals called endocannabinoids, which mimic those produced by cannabis.

Exercise also stimulates the frontal regions of the brain, which regulate stress and pent-up tension. A daily exercise routine can significantly affect anxiety regardless of your type of exercise.

When exercising to reduce anxiety, try to do so in an environment that doesn’t trigger feelings of stress or physical discomfort. Begin by doing short workouts on your own. Gradually increase your exercise time, such as running or cycling.

If you find that you cannot do this, try joining a group or a class, which makes exercising more fun and likely to stick with it. You can also try meditation or yoga, both of which are known to help with anxiety.

Exercise boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor

Exercise has been shown to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein helps keep your brain cells growing and flourishing.

BDNF flips a switch in your brain cells that encourages new connections and strengthens your existing neurons. Exercising increases BDNF levels in various brain regions, including the hippocampus, improving mood, memory, and cognitive functions.

The effects of exercise are well documented, with a marked increase in BDNF in mice following regular physical activity. Previous studies have also indicated that this molecule may have neuroprotective properties and could help treat depression.

Exercise also promotes synaptogenesis, dendritic branching, and spine turnover. Although the effects of exercise are well known, scientists are not sure how to selectively increase Bdnf levels.

Final Thoughts

Well, it seems that exercise is not only great for our physical health and wellbeing, but it might also be perfect for our mental health. This should come as no surprise to those who have experienced the intro and post-workout high.

All in all, if you are looking for an easy way to boost mental health, don’t hesitate to include regular training in your schedule!

What’s your take on training and mental health? How did training change you psychologically? Comment below!

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