We all know the physical benefits of exercise on the body, such as increased muscle mass, higher metabolism, a healthy cardiovascular system and increased bone mineral density, but there are many mental benefits to regular workouts as well.
In addition to keeping us in great shape, exercise can also help everyone be happier and more productive in every area of life by keeping us emotionally stable and mentally sharp.
Even just 30 minutes of cardio (such as brisk walking) 5 times a week has been shown to reduce the risk for many diseases, and can often psychologically stabilize exercisers without the use of medication.
In addition to exercising regularly for your body, you may want to consider participating in a consistent fitness program for your mind. Check out the reasons below to understand why getting physical is always a great idea.
1. Exercise Releases Feel-Good Brain Chemicals—
When we exercise, chemicals in the brain that make us feel happy, such as serotonin and dopamine, are released.
Everyone has different biology, and many neurological conditions feature a deficit of these particular chemicals, such as ADHD.
For this reason, many people with ADHD find that exercise helps them think more clearly, focus better, and boosts memory for hours after the workout is over, making it a helpful way to naturally combat symptoms.
But exercise offers this euphoric effect for all, and regardless of neurology, everybody can benefit from the increased clarity and brain power a workout will deliver.
2. Exercise Can Lessen Depression—
Depression affects many people, sometimes because of a bad situation or unhappy circumstances, and sometimes for physiological reasons beyond their control.
Whatever the cause, this debilitating mental illness can settle over the depressed person like a fog that won’t lift; causing fatigue, hopelessness and even physical pain. But if they can find a way to get some exercise, it has been shown to help in highly significant ways.
While exercise doesn’t seem to benefit those diagnosed as bipolar, it has drastically improved the mental state of those with depression in multiple studies, and is highly beneficial for those with anxiety disorders.
3. Exercise Helps Us Learn—
By increasing the neurotransmitters – dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin – exercise can boost the ability to focus, concentrate and stay alert, allowing those trying to learn a new skill or memorize material to do better.
If you have the type of job that requires constant training, daily updates, or have started a new career with different responsibilities and tasks, a workout before you start your day can motivate you and get your brain ready to retain information.
4. Exercise Keeps the Brain Young—
As we age, there is a natural decline in memory and cognitive function that occurs, with jokes about having a “senior moment” often being made in reference to this sometimes frustrating phenomenon.
The good news is that forgetting why we walked into a room can happen less often if we exercise as we age. The increased blood flow of a workout can actually help the brain retain its youthful function, with research showing significant improvement in older people who stay active.
5. Exercise Keeps the Brain Flexible—
Brain plasticity is what allows us to make new connections and adapt to change, which is an extremely important function in a constantly evolving world. You never know what’s going to happen next, and being ready to handle anything that comes your way is a great skill to have in your mental tool kit.
Researchers have discovered that regular exercise enhances and increases brain plasticity, stimulates protective brain chemicals, and promotes long-term memory, all things that help us mentally cope with new situations and challenges.
6. Exercise Helps the Brain Prioritize—
If you often feel overwhelmed, like you don’t know where to start working on your constantly-growing list of things to do, exercise can help the brain prioritize from most to least important, making it easier to know where to get started.
The endorphins triggered by physical activity increase focus, block out distractions and allow you to make smart decisions about what to do next, rather than freezing because of anxiety.
Meditation and yoga have been shown to be complementary and mentally favorable activities when combined with a more vigorous exercise program, so if you can work some soothing stretching into your regimen, definitely do so. If you get your body moving every day to reap the physical and mental rewards of exercise, you can stay fit and keep your brain in great shape, too.