Improve Mental Health with Exercise

The benefits of exercise to your physical health are well-known: you burn calories, build muscle, and lower your risk for health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Did you know that exercising can also improve your mental health?

“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning,” says John Ratey, a psychiatrist with Harvard Medical School and author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. So the next time you lace up your sneakers to get active, think about the awesome benefits to your mental health that are coming your way.

  • Reduce Stress and Anxiety: It’s easy to get wrapped up in whatever is causing stress in your life, but exercise can be an effective break from the cycle of negative thoughts. Being able to take your mind off your worries can help clear your mind and tackle stress from a different angle. Exercise combats the built-up tension caused by stress and anxiety by increasing the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
  • Improve Self-Confidence: You may start to feel better about your body after implementing exercise into your routine. Seeing improvements like being able to lift more weight or run a mile at a faster pace will give your confidence a boost as well.
  • Boost Happiness: When you are exercising, your body releases “feel-good” brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, endorphins, and endocannabinoids. These chemicals create happiness and a euphoric feeling, while reducing feelings of depression. Engaging in exercise can also increase your social interaction, even if it’s just a smile or greeting during a walk around the neighborhood, which can improve your mood.
  • Tap into Creativity: Ever fall into a creative slump or “writer’s block”? Go outside for a walk or take a break to do your favorite exercise routine! Studies have shown that creativity spikes in the hours after an exercise session.
  • Sharpen Memory: A Canadian study in 2011 followed elderly adults for up to five years tracking their cognitive ability and their physical activity. Those who were most active (short walks, cleaning, gardening) had the best cognitive function at the end of the study compared to their sedentary peers. In fact, 90% of the physically active participants had the same cognitive function at the beginning and end of the survey.

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