Wanting to have a fit body is a fabulous reason to exercise, but weight-loss is only half of the story. Today, I invite you to discover the 8 mental health benefits of exercise you need to know.
1. Exercise Helps You Think Positive.
Exercise makes you feel alive and top of the world. For an example, look no farther than endurance athletes who often report experiencing “the runner’s high,” a feeling of complete calm or euphoria that sometimes takes hold of their body during a long run or race. According to a study by the journal Cerebral Cortex, this is because running causes your brain to release a rush of endorphins, the happy hormone that makes you feel warm and fuzzy.
2. Exercise Helps You Get Stuff Done.
Just 10 minutes of exercise can improve your concentration and mental strength, according to analysis of 19 studies published in the British Medical Journal. Do a few sets of squats or take a brisk walk while your morning coffee brews to get focused and ready for your day.
3. Exercise Helps You Release Baggage.
Hit the gym or take a run if you find yourself feeling burdened because of financial stress, a crazy day at work, or a nasty fight with your partner. Channel your frustrated feelings into increased intensity during your training sessions if you’d like to turn a negative into a positive.
4. Exercise Helps You Improve Your Memory.
Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent cognitive decline as we age, according to Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.” Research suggests that exercise results in the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a chemical that rewires your memory circuits so they can work together more effectively. All other things equal, any exercise is better than none; but this particular mental health benefits of exercise requires a consistent fitness plan including 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity for about 5 days per week.
5. Exercise Helps You Think Outside of the Box.
Got a big exam, speech, performance, or presentation coming up? You’d be wise to squeeze in a workout a couple hours before, because getting sweaty improves your creative capacity for up to 2 hours after a training session. Clear your mind by performing a few yoga poses a little while before your next big event.
6. Exercise Helps You Relieve Stress and Anxiety.
Exercise could be more effective than any antidepressant on the market according to a study by Duke University published in the Journal Psychosomatic Medicine. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America echos that sentiment:
“According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.” Source
7. Exercise Helps You Gain Confidence in Your Abilities.
Have you ever avoided going to a gym or exercise class because you were too embarrassed to work out in front of strangers? If so, I know the feeling; I was overweight for most of my life and avoided group fitness activities for the very same reason. But please realize that where you are starting from is irrelevant; the important thing is where you’re going. According to a study by the Journal of Health Psychology, it isn’t the weight lifted or speed reached that increases your confidence, but the simple act of exercising itself.
8. Exercise Helps You Love and Accept Your Body as it is.
Comparison is the thief of joy, so stop comparing yourself to celebrities with figures that are out of reach. When you see scantily clad models in magazines, remember that the female photographed probably went through restrictive diets and fitness regimes (not to mention digital enhancements) in order to look the way they do.
When you see articles like “The Katy Perry Workout,” realize this routine was originally designed for a specific person (Katy Perry) with a specific body type. Even if you did the same workout as instructed, you could not reasonably expect to look like Katy Perry, because life just doesn’t work that way.
Comparisons aside, exercising will help you become more comfortable in your body. Whether you’re curvy, skinny, or muscular is irrelevant. Your body is a glorious vessel that will take care of you as long as you take care of it. Exercise is an expression of love for your body, as evidenced by the physical and mental benefits of the top three types of exercises listed below:
You would be wise to include all 3 of those things in your training. This will help you improve your speed, strength, and stamina; all while enjoying the wide variety of health benefits listed above.
But even if exercise isn’t going to solve your weight-loss problems, there are many other benefits to getting off the couch. So don’t cancel that gym membership. Just yet. 7 Benefits of Exercise (and Why Weight Loss Isn’t One of Them)
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