Hello! Many times we hear about how exercise is good to relieve stress. This is definitely true, however there are several other mental benefits to exercise I’d like to share. Have you ever wondered does exercise affect your brain? It actually affects many parts of your brain. I’d like to break down some key ways working out affects those areas and can make you feel better.
Stress Relief – Since this seems to be the most popular mental health benefit everyone talks about I’ll start here. Many times when you’re under stress your muscles will tense which can lead to aches and pain. Sometimes it can also cause severe headaches.
Physical activity helps to relax muscles and relieve tension. By moving your muscles through a full range of motion, it helps relieve tension in your muscle fibers caused by stress. Also, as a result of your body feeling better it will cause your mind to feel better as well.
Exercise also enhances your immune system which helps fight off stress. The National Academy of Sports Medicine wrote a great article on dealing with stress that you can see here.
Endorphins – Exercise releases endorphins from your brain which are chemicals that make you feel happy. It doesn’t take a lot for these chemicals to get released either. Just getting your heart rate elevated for 10 minutes or more can help get them flowing.
Strengthens the Brain and Prevents Degeneration – Working out boosts the growth of new neurons which help prevent problems associated with brain degeneration. It also helps you concentrate more and feel mentally sharper when performing tasks.
Memory – Physical activity on a regular basis improves your memory and ability to learn new things. This is because exercise increases the production of brain cells required for memory and learning.
Depression – Research has shown that working out can help treat moderate depression as effectively as some medications without side effects. It helps because exercise promotes neural growth and activity in the brain that triggers emotions of calm and feeling well. Physical activity also helps break the cycle of negative thoughts that may be occurring.
Exercising Outdoors – Working out outdoors can help boost your self-esteem and self-confidence. You can choose an outdoor activity you like to do such as walking, jogging, hiking, etc. The Vitamin D from the sun interacts with the brain to make you feel better. Just make sure you use sunscreen to avoid sunburn!
Anxiety – Research has shown that exercise can bring several hours of relief to those suffering from anxiety. Evidence has also shown that people who exercise have lower rates of anxiety than people who are sedentary.
Addiction – The brain releases the chemical dopamine as a response to perceived pleasure such as exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. However, some people become addicted to the dopamine released by the brain. This in turn causes them to become heavily dependent on the substance causing that release.
Exercise can distract someone with an addiction from the substance at least temporarily. Also, since exercise causes the brain to release endorphins which I mentioned earlier, they can get high from the exercise instead of their vice.
Creativity – A good workout can enhance creativity in your brain for up to 2 hours after exercising. So the next time you’re working on a project or need to think outside the box go ahead and work out. You might be surprised at the ideas you’re able to come up with.
Productivity – Exercising a few days a week will give you more energy. This will enable you to accomplish more tasks at home, work, or wherever you are.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) – Working out on a regular basis helps reduce symptoms of ADHD and improve motivation, concentration, and your mood. Exercise elevates your brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels which help you focus better. Hence, exercise can sometimes help as much as medications.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) – Evidence has shown that by focusing on how your body feels during exercise such as sensations in your joints and muscles, this can help alleviate symptoms of PTSD.
Doing this helps your brain and nervous system release itself from an immobilizing stress response. Exercises that involve movement of both arms and legs usually work best.
Insomnia – Physical activity has a positive affect on your circadian rhythm and can help regulate your sleep pattern. Working out at approximately the same time each day works best. This gets your body into a more regular schedule so you can sleep better. It doesn’t matter what time of day you work out as long as it’s consistently around the same time.
Summary – Exercise is just as vital to your mental health as it is to your physical health. The great thing about a good workout is being able to nourish your body, mind, and soul at the same time. I mentioned soul because I feel your soul is part of your mind.
So the next time you’re trying to decide whether to work out or not, just remember the positive effects it has on 3 phases of your being and not just your body. What experiences do you have to share where where exercise made you feel better? Please let us know in the comments.
Also, if you have any other comments or questions please let me know and I will get back to you. Thanks for reading and have a fantastic day!