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Exercise and Mental Health

This topic talks about how exercise affects our mental health.

Regular exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. A consistent 30-minute workout each day will do a lot more than merely improve your physical health and decrease excess body fat. Including regular workout sessions in your schedule comes with several benefits; however, the biggest one is that exercise helps improve your mental health. A study conducted at the Center for BrainHealth, Dallas, revealed that regular exercise is instrumental in improving the brain health and function.

Whether you want to start exercising or already are a workout enthusiast, exercising daily can boost your mental well-being and help you deal with everyday stress.

Here are eight ways in which exercise can benefit your mental health and make you happier.

Exercise Improves Your Overall Mood

Have you had a rough day at work? Or are you feeling depressed because you are lonely? Try taking a 15-minute brisk walk or exercise at the gym.

It has been scientifically established that sweating it out releases endorphins (feel-good hormones) in the brain that elevate the mood and make you feel happy. This is primarily the reason why patients grappling with depression are asked to spend plenty of time at the gym.

By being active, you are less likely to be depressed, and research has proven that regular exercise is as effective as an antidepressant in managing depression and anxiety. 20 minutes of running on the treadmill or jogging can calm you down and transport you into a happier frame of mind.

Exercise Helps You Stay Positive

When your mind is idle, you tend to waste your energy in unconstructive thoughts. This lowers your morale and makes you negative. Instead, use this time to work out at the gym or cycle along the countryside.

Outdoor physical activities encourage you to meet new people too.  Workout sessions with friends broaden your outlook and your mind goes off pessimistic thoughts. Exercising regularly gets you out of the house, makes you enjoy the world around you, and forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life.

Exercise Beats Stress

In this fast-paced world, everyone experiences stressful situations. It is a proven fact that stress is a major reason for serious illnesses like cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and stroke.

Running a few miles every day will go a long way in reducing your stress levels and calming your inner fears. Intense physical workout increases the levels of norepinephrine (the stress buffer) in your body so that your brain can respond to stress without getting panicky. Running can counter Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and help calm you down when you feel anxious.

Exercise Boosts Your Brain Power and Efficiency

Solving crossword puzzles and playing memory games are not the only ways of enhancing your brain function. Aerobic exercises too increase the supply of blood and oxygen to every part of your body, most importantly to your brain, thus, improving its efficiency.

A study published online revealed that a session of intense aerobic activity promotes neurogenesis (production of new brain cells) and improves your concentration.

Intense workout is also known to stimulate the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein in the brain that prevents the degeneration of brain cells. This leads to improved decision-making, thinking, reasoning, and learning ability.

Exercise Improves Memory and Cognitive Function

Having trouble remembering phone numbers and birth dates? Regular exercise is the solution. Researchers have proven that following a consistent exercise regimen improves the blood supply to the brain and positively influences your cognitive function.

As you age, the hippocampus (part of the brain that stores memories) shrinks naturally and you tend to become forgetful. Working out at the gym triggers the production of cells in the hippocampus and, therefore, reverses the volume loss of brain cells. This results in improved memory and cognitive function.

Exercise Pumps up Your Creative Quotient

An intense workout session can get your creative juices flowing and help you come up with enough ideas for that marketing presentation you have been struggling with.

A scientific study published in the Frontiers in Human Neurosciences has shown that physical activities can enhance creative thinking. According to this paper, regular exercise has positive effects on convergent and divergent thinking, which are the two crucial components of creativity.

Moreover, working out focuses your attention on the problem and helps you come up with creative solutions. So, the next time you want to kindle your creativity, go for a jog, a walk or a swim.

Exercise Makes You More Confident

Whether you are nervous about that important client meeting or are jittery about raising a toast at your friend’s wedding, a 10-minute brisk walk can get you back in action.

Researchers have claimed that daily physical workouts offer positive psychological benefits such as enhanced self-esteem. Exercise makes you feel good about yourself, gives you a sense of achievement and boosts your self-worth.

Creating a workout regimen and adhering to it, can make you feel motivated as you take pride in sharing your success with others. Find a workout that makes you feel good, whether it is swimming, cycling, hiking, or canoeing, and see how staying active can work wonders for your confidence.

Exercise Enhances Your Sleep Quality

Do you find it hard to get enough quality sleep? Go for a long run or hit the gym before going to bed. A scientific paper published in the journal, Clinics in Sports Medicine suggests that exercise is an attractive alternative to the various medications available to treat insomnia.

Sleep medications come with a number of side-effects and are not recommended for long-term use due to their addictive potential. In sharp contrast to sleeping pills, exercise is a simple, an effective, and a safe way to improve your sleep quality.

A lot of scientific evidence has shown that people who remain physically active enjoy improved mental health and are able to cope with stress in a better manner. Intense workout comes with a world of benefits for your mind and body. Use the above-mentioned pointers as bits of motivation to include regular exercise in your schedule.

Sources: Frontiersin.org, Practo, Heart.org, NCBI

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