On the face of it, the benefits of regular exercise may seem fairly obvious.
To the untrained eye, regular cardiovascular exercise helps to build muscle mass and develop greater levels of physical stamina. It also contributes to a more active lifestyle, while increasing your physical capabilities even as you advance in age.
But regular exercise achieves far more than this, it also has a considerable impact on your mental well being. The connection between physical and mental health is far from clear, especially for individuals who have recently begun to exercise regularly.
In terms of a scientific explanation, it is important to remember that exercise is registered as a moment of stress in the human brain. To protect against this, the brain releases a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which serves as a reset switch and triggers feelings of serenity and contentedness. Simultaneously, the brain also releases endorphins, which also help to combat stress by minimizing the physical discomfort caused by exercise and eventually creating a euphoric sensation.
So how does this translate in the typical human mind? Consider the following:
An Improved Mood and Mental Outlook
After exercise, one of the first things you will notice is an improved mental outlook. As the brain releases numerous chemicals to alleviate the symptoms of stress and physical pain, you will begin to benefit from enhanced mood levels and a more positive perspective on life. As a consequence of this, you will feel better equipped to take on challenges and solve problems, while finding it far easier to handle stressful circumstances and unforeseen setbacks.
Increased Energy and Physical Output
Lethargy is a physical trait commonly associated with depression, which is why inactivity often exacerbates this mental condition. One of the most obvious benefits of regular exercise is that it leads to increased energy levels, meaning that you have greater stamina and find it easier to complete daily tasks at work and at home. With a productive day behind you, it is also more likely that you will benefit from a genuine sense of accomplishment and contentedness.
A Healthier BMI and Body Image
Perhaps the most widely recognized physical benefit of regular exercise is controlled weight loss, which in turn has a direct impact on our appearance and levels of body confidence. With a regular exercise regime burning calories and creating a more streamlined figure, you will begin to benefit from improved self-confidence and inflated levels of self-esteem. The impact of this should not be underestimated, as those with a positive body image are more likely to live a happy and satisfied life.
A Greater Resistance to Disease and Illness
As you grow older, research suggests that you are more likely to develop conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. While this may be partially due to your age, however, your level of physical fitness is a far more influential factor in determining your condition as you grow older. In fact, regular exercise boosts your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which build good cholesterol and reduces the presence of unhealthy triglycerides. These factors will help to combat the threat of disease, which in turn will you to maintain an active, busy and happy lifestyle.
The Last Word
Regardless of the science behind it, regular exercise has numerous benefits with regards to our mental health and outlook. Simply by committing to undertake 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every single day, you can take steps towards enjoying a more active lifestyle that improves your levels of self-esteem, happiness and physical energy.
Feel like you should start exercising? 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)Featured photo credit: Woman running in autumn fall forest. Female runner training outdoor in profile. Healthy lifestyle image of young Asian woman jogging outside. Fit ethnic Asian Caucasian fitness model. via Shutterstock