Most of us know that exercise is good for weight control, reducing the risk of diabetes, lowers blood pressure, and increases energy, among other things. However, it is good for your psychological health as well. From easing symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression to keeping your mind and memory sharp, there is no shortage of psychological benefits of exercise.
Dr. Shawna Charles, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, understands the connection between mental and psychical health. In fact, she opened a Los Angeles boxing gym that includes fitness and mental health services. Dr. Charles and many others in her field understand the benefits of physical exercise and its effects on mental health.
There is nothing like the feeling of exercising and having stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) dipping while the feel-goods like endorphin kicks in. As a result, anxiety lowers, stress slips away, and it has only been 5 minutes into the workout. That’s all the time it takes to reduce stress and anxiety.
My client’s reaction
As a personal trainer, my clients would come in for their sessions with their own stress and anxiety. As a result, throwing themselves into the workout was the best way to release all that pent-up tension. In fact, when they had finished their session, they felt refreshed. However, if not consistent with their exercise, there is no lasting effect if not done routinely.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, “1988 researchers found a positive correlation between physical activity and mental health”. In fact, making exercise part of your lifestyle has multiple benefits for the mind and body. Physical activity is connected to good mental health. In fact, long-term studies show improved mood, energy, and a general sense of wellbeing. Next, let’s look at how exercise helps our body and mind:
Overall Workout Benefits
- Brain: improves the gray matter in the brain, and you feel more alert, concentration improves, and you feel more balanced. Moreover, post-workout there is a sense of accomplishment that you wouldn’t experience if you just sat around all day.
- Health: promotes healthy blood vessels (prevents and dissolves blood clots), and lowers blood pressure. Furthermore, exercise protects against chronic disease.
- Body: improves bone density, especially weight-bearing exercises, reverses age-related muscle degeneration, and improves joint health, keeping them supple and lubricated.
Immunity: regular activity gives us extra protection, allows for faster recovery, and heightens our defenses. In fact, Harvard Health quotes a study that suggests routine activity helps protect people who get COVID-19 from serious illnesses.
Let’s dig deeper on mental health benefits of exercise:
Whether you need the motivation to get to the gym or to take a walk, the five psychological benefits of physical activity below will have you tying up your shoe laces and heading out the door.
#1. Decreases stress
A mental health benefit of exercise is that it reduces stress levels, which makes us feel happier. People who regularly participate in exercise have shown reduced stress levels, increased and stabilized moods, improved sleep, and improved self-esteem. All of which affect stress levels; each area of improvement equals improved stress levels.
#2. Lowers anxiety
Did you know that just five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects? How, you ask? Basically, it is the same for stress; exercise positively affects several neurotransmitters that affect anxiety, including serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and endorphins are lowered. The results are improved levels of anxiety, and you just feel better.
#3. Alleviates depression
According to many studies, regular exercise works just as well as medication for depression. In fact, one session of vigorous exercise will alleviate depressive symptoms for hours. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise releases feel-good endorphins (natural cannabis-like brain chemicals) and other chemicals that increase your sense of well-being.
#4. Increased self-esteem
Physical achievements like losing weight, increasing muscle tone, and improving endurance can add to increased self-confidence. Perhaps your goal was not to improve self-esteem, but it is a happy benefit when you look and feel better.
#5. Boost the brain
Exercise boosts brainpower in many ways; strengthening memory, building intelligence, and preventing cognitive decline and memory loss—the hippocampus is responsible for memory and learning and gets a boost from physical exercise.
You don’t need to spend hours and hours training, sweat buckets, or run for miles to reap the benefits of physical exercise. A few 5-minute sessions of exercise, to begin with, is a great start. Starting is the essential thing while increasing your session length over time.
Keep in mind you don’t have to suffer to get positive and happy results. You get one body, and you want to keep it healthy. Check out my categories fitness and lifestyle to see other ways to find positive results in life.