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BENEFITS OF EXERCISE ON MENTAL HEALTH

benefits of exercise on mental health

Breaking a sweat isn't just about toning those muscles or shedding a few pounds; it's also a game changer for your mental well-being.


In the current lifestyle that we lead where our daily lives are so busy between raising our kids, hunching over our laptops or phones a lot of the time (let's just be honest with ourselves here), getting our homes organized, trying to get some social life going on, mentally we end up being drained because our minds are constantly working, and working overtime.


This is not inclusive of life-altering events that we deal with, such as the loss of a loved one or an unexpected diagnosis. These can play some serious games on your mental health.


Personally, I've recently lost both my youngest brother and my grandmother in the span of 3 months, on top of that I had also lost my job. I cannot tell you how difficult it is to get myself to sleep at night, and even when and if I do, dragging myself out of bed in the morning is a struggle especially when all I want to do is drown in my own thoughts. But I have a son who needs me and I know that my mental health is of utmost importance during these times, so I can be present for him and keep going on.


So instead of giving in to the constant noise in my head, I sometimes put on my shoes and go for a walk. Just a little bit of exercise really does wonders.





Why Mental Health is Important

Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It truly affects our relationships, our work, and our overall quality of life.


When our mental health is in tip-top shape, we're better equipped to handle life's curveballs. We're better able to bounce back from setbacks and find gratitude and joy in the little things.



10 Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health

The benefits of exercise are not just about avoiding major illnesses (though that's crucial too!), but it's also about feeling good on a day-to-day basis.


If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed and looking to boost your mood or reduce some stress, here are 10 benefits of exercise on mental health.




1. Boosts Your Mood

If you've ever noticed that you feel happier and more relaxed after a good workout or a walk, it's not a coincidence!


Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in your brain. Endorphins help to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.


So, the next time you're feeling a bit down, put on those sneakers and hit the pavement for an instant mood boost!


2. Reduces Stress

We're all quite familiar by now with how stressful life can get, and quite frankly, exercise is your secret weapon to help reduce it.


Exercise helps lower the levels of the hormone responsible for stress, cortisol. Whether it's a brisk walk in nature or a sweaty spin class, carving out some time for exercise can help you feel calmer and more grounded.


3. Helps Improve Sleep

If you keep tossing and turning at night, exercise might just be the remedy you need.


Studies have shown that regular physical activity can improve, not only the duration of sleep but also the quality of sleep. There is so much research saying how getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining good mental health as well as cognitive function.


So if you sweat it during the day, you might be able to reverse your tossing and turning and help you get the rest that you need.


4. Boosts Self-Esteem

Have you ever noticed how accomplished you feel after you've crushed that workout or when you've reached your step goal for the day way before the end of the day?


Exercise does do wonders for your self-esteem. Not only does it improve your physical appearance, but it also gives you a sense of mastery and control over your body. Whether you're lifting weights or mastering a yoga pose, each victory, no matter how small adds up and boosts your self-confidence.



5. Increases Energy Levels

When you're feeling a bit sluggish or experiencing some brain fog, exercise might just be what the doctor ordered. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to your muscles, which in turn can leave you feeling more energized and alert.


So instead of reaching for another cup of coffee, try going for a brisk walk or doing some jumping jacks to wake up your body and your mind.


6. Enhances Cognitive Function

Research suggests that regular physical activity can improve cognitive function, memory, and concentration. Exercise is a brain booster so if you're struggling to stay focussed at work or school, take a break and get moving - your brain will thank you for it!


7. Alleviates Anxiety

If you're prone to anxiety, exercise can calm your nerves and help soothe your anxiety symptoms.


Exercise promotes the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are known to have mood-stabilizing effects.


Furthermore, the rhythmic movements of activities like swimming, walking, or running can have a meditative quality, helping you feel more grounded and centered.




8. Fosters Social Connections

You don't have to do it alone. Exercise can be a fantastic way to connect with other like-minded people.


Whether you join a fitness class, start a running/walking group, or simply take a walk with a friend or have an exercise buddy, being in a group or having a partner can boost your mood, reduce feelings of loneliness, and provide a sense of belonging.


9. Healthy Coping Mechanism

Exercise can be a healthy way to cope with the stress, grief, or difficult emotions that come with the challenges that life throws at us.


Instead of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like overeating or substance abuse, going for a run or going for regular walks can help you channel your emotions in a positive way. Not only that but it will help clear your mind too.


10. Promotes Brain Plasticity

Last but not least, exercise has been shown to promote neuroplasticity - the brain's ability to adapt and change in response to experiences.


This means that regular physical activity can help protect against age-related cognitive decline and may even reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.


The bottom line is, that exercise is just as much a workout for your brain as it is for your body.





Those are 10 incredible benefits of exercise on your mental health and it can be a total game-changer for your overall mental well-being.


Whether it's boosting your mood, reducing stress, or improving your sleep, there's no denying the powerful impact that physical activity can have on your well-being. So, next time you're feeling overwhelmed or down in the dumps, remember that a little movement can go a long way toward lifting your spirits and helping you feel your best.




sources.

American Psychological Association (APA) - "Exercise and Mental Health": apa.org/topics/exercise/index

Harvard Health Publishing - "Exercising to Relax": health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax

National Sleep Foundation - "Exercise and Sleep": sleepfoundation.org/exercise-and-sleep

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - "Physical Activity and Mental Health": cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - "Physical Activity and Mental Health": nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/physical-activity-and-mental-health/index.shtml

Psychology Today - "The Brain-Changing Benefits of Exercise": psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way

British Journal of Sports Medicine - "Association of Exercise Intensity and Duration With Decreased Risk of Incident Depression in Adults: A Meta-analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies": bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2020/10/08/bjsports-2020-102961

Journal of Sport and Health Science - "Exercise and Mental Health: Many Reasons to Move": sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254618301005

World Health Organization (WHO) - "Physical Activity and Mental Health": who.int/teams/health-promotion/physical-activity



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