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8 Fabulous Mental Health Benefits of Exercise You Need to Know

8 Fabulous Mental Health Benefits of Exercise You Need to Know

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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Running will help you reduce anxiety, relieve depression, and live longer.

Lifting weights will help you improve heart health, protect your bones, and maintain a healthy weight.

Yoga will help you increase concentration, improve balance in older adults, and reduce back pain at work.

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.

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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