Scientific Benefits of Exercise on Your Mental Health

14 September 2020

Have you noticed that a long period of inactivity makes you gloomy?

However, the idea of exercise improving your mental health may be less obvious.

The prevalence of depression and anxiety are constantly increasing.

While there are many aspects of modern life, such as poor diet and social isolation, which could contribute to this state, physical inactivity is the most crucial factor.

Exercise releases the body’s feel-good hormones (endorphins), improving your mood.

Further, depending on the type of activity, you may also feel energetic and calmer.

Let’s understand more about the benefits of physical activity for your brain health.

Mental Health Benefits

Exercise is not all about muscle size and aerobic capacity. Obviously, exercise can improve your physique and physical health, improve sex life, and trim your waistline. But does all these motivate people to stay active?

Those who exercise regularly tend to do it as they get a great feeling of well-being. They feel more energetic, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed.

Exercising is also an excellent medicine for various mental health problems. It can positively impact anxiety, depression, insomnia, and boost your overall mood.

And the best part is that you do not have to be a fitness fanatic to gain these benefits.

According to research, even a modest amount of exercise can create a huge impact. So, regardless of fitness level and age, you can use exercise as a tool to help you feel better.

Here are some scientific ways of how physical activity can improve mental health.

Boosts Endorphins

Find it difficult to exercise? It may be difficult, but your brain will thank

you for years together.

Physical activity, such as dancing or running, triggers the release of endorphins – hormones that are responsible for the feeling of euphoria and happiness.

Studies have shown that activity can help in managing the symptoms of depression.

For the same reasons, doctors advise plenty of workout time for those facing depression and anxiety. In many cases, exercise can be as effective as antidepressant pills.

Walking for just 30 minutes a day can instantly lift your mood.

Reduces Stress

Having a rough day? Dance or get a quick workout session. 

One of the primary benefits of physical activity is stress relief.

Exercise boosts the release of norepinephrine – a chemical responsible for managing your brain’s response to stress.

For many, exercising can be extremely relaxing. This is true even for people with a sleep disorder.

Physical activity, 5-6 hours before bedtime, increases your core temperature. When this temperature drops down, it signals your body to relax and sleep.

So, go ahead and sweat your worries.

It will reduce stress as well as improve your body’s ability to deal with it.

Prevents Cognitive Decline

Let’s face the fact. As we age, our brain gets hazy.

Degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and aging destroy your brain’s cells. This may result in the loss of various brain functions.

While exercise cannot prevent the changes caused by aging or cure Alzheimer’s, it prevents against cognitive decline.

Regular activity, especially between the ages 25-45, enhances the production of brain chemicals that prevent degeneration of the hippocampus – a part of the brain associated with learning and memory.

So, activity is one of the ways to prevent

Improve Self-Confidence

Want to look or feel confident?

Physical fitness improves positive self-image and boosts self-esteem.

Regardless of size, weight, age, or gender, a workout can quickly improve your sense of wellbeing, perception of attractiveness and self-worth

So get moving, even if it is just little and often with a short fitness program and stretch yourself for that feeling of self-love.

Alleviates Anxiety

Do you know that a 20-minute jog or exercise class is more relaxing than a warm, cozy bubble bath?

Surprised? But, it is true.

The fuzzy and warm chemicals released during exercise can help people with anxiety disorders to calm down.

Moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise, such as dance cardio or running, can lower anxiety sensitivity. 

So, indulge in exercises and calm down yourself while burning calories.

Improves Creativity

Used to end an intense workout with a hot shower?

Here is why you should do a creative activity, such as coloring, instead.

A heart-pumping session can enhance your creativity for 2 hours after exercising.

You can supercharge this post-workout inspiration by exercising outdoors and interact with nature.

So, next time you need to boost your creative thinking, head outside to Sleek, run, stretch or do your yoga.

Enhances Brain Power

Ever thought that activity can boost your brainpower?

Studies have shown that cardiovascular exercises actually aids the generating of new brain cells, improving your brainpower.

An intense workout increases the level of a brain-derived protein (BDNF), which improves thinking, learning, and decision making.

Besides, regular workouts or activity increases your ability to learn new things and memory.

Sweating also boosts the production of new cells in the hippocampus – area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

No wonder researchers link a child’s brain development with physical fitness. 

But these exercise-based brainpower benefits are not limited only for kids. It can boost the memory of grown-ups as well.

Studies have also shown that short exercise sprints enhanced vocabulary retention in healthy adults.

You can also take help of a nootropic supplement along with exercise to boost your brain power.

Nootropics are supplements that improve chemicals in your brain and provide nutrients that enhance your learning, memory, and cognition. Also said to improves your mental health and prevents age-related degenerative changes. 

How Much Activity Should One Do?

Getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day for 5 days a week offers you to reap mental and physical health benefits.

However, if you cannot spare this much time, do not despair. Even a few minutes of activity is better than having nothing at all.

Initiate with smaller sessions of 5-10 minutes and gradually increase. Consistency is the key, and gradually you will notice the benefits of exercising.

Unable to get time during the week? Be a weekend fighter.

A study has shown that people who can squeeze time for a workout during weekends have almost as many benefits as those who exercise more often.

All in all, do not let your busy schedule come in your way of doing an activity. Get moving, and your body and mind will thank you.

Dancing as A physical Activity

Dancing is linked to being happy. But even if you are not feeling at the top of the world, getting in rhythm can boost your self-esteem, which gradually keeps on increasing while you lose yourself in the dance.

Many ballet dancers walk away taller, both figuratively and physically after their classes. Dance and dance fitness can be for anyone regardless of your experience. It not only relieves stress but also helps focus on the present as your brain works to master new steps and choreography. Dancing also improves posture, which significantly influences self-confidence. It also offers an excellent sense of release and freedom.

Final Thoughts

Physical activity improves both physical and mental health. It improves your mood, sleep, and cognition. It also delays age and disease-related degenerative changes in your brain. You do not have to spend hours in the gym to reap off the benefits. Fun activities, such as swimming, running, and dancing, offer you these benefits. 

So, start with a form of activity you really enjoy to look better, feel better, and get more out of your life.

Contribution from Finding Optimisim

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