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16 Ways Exercise Improves Mental Health

Most people exercise to lose weight, build muscles, improve strength, enhance endurance, increase flexibility and hone balance. However, being physically active is the key to becoming mentally fit. Working out does more good to your well-being than you realize because less has been said about how exercise improves mental health.

How Exercise Improves Mental Health

Exercise can benefit you emotionally and psychologically by causing your body to release neurotransmitters and hormones, such as serotonin and noradrenaline. These chemicals make you feel good and positively affect your brain function.

16 Ways Exercise Improves Mental Health

Regularly engaging in any physical activity, including running, playing sports, and pumping iron, can help you achieve mental fitness. If your body is in better condition, your mind will also be in a better state. These 16 benefits prove how exercise enhances mental health.

1. Relieving Stress

Performing any physical activity you enjoy can take your mind off your worries and give you respite from your tedious routine. Exercise helps release the pressure you’re experiencing, drives down stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, and stimulates the production of endorphins — natural painkillers —  helping you relax.

Moreover, physical activity benefits your cardiovascular health, improves your digestive system and boosts your immunity, making you more resistant to the effects of stress on your body.

2. Lifting Mood

Breaking a sweat will help you get into bliss if you feel cranky or look glum. You can feel euphoric after a lengthy or intense workout session because your body secretes endocannabinoids, dopamine and other mood-boosting chemicals.

3. Reducing Anxiety

Breathing and rhythmic exercises are effective anxiety relievers. If you feel anxious about anything, visit a martial arts gym, hit the dance floor, or go for a dip to instantly feel better.

4. Easing Depression

Exercise is 1.5 times more potent than antidepressants for treating mild or moderate depression. The higher your activity’s intensity, the more effectively it can make your condition more manageable. It complements common psychological treatments for depression instead of replacing them.

5. Boosting Self-Esteem

Making a habit of working out to shed pounds until you reach and maintain your ideal body mass index can improve your overall sense of value and self-worth.

Whether you agree with society’s ever-changing beauty standards or not, you must have a positive body image to have healthy self-esteem. Exercising can get you there. Fitness journeys are not a walk in the park. Any gain is a cause for celebration.

Witnessing your physical transformation can be therapeutic and addictive to anyone with low confidence levels. Seeing the fruits of your labor demonstrates you can accomplish anything if you put in the work, undoing any unconstructive criticism you’ve received regarding your fitness and proving you’re capable of enhancing your attractiveness.

6. Increasing Energy

Getting high doses of feel-good hormones can negate feelings of lethargy. Cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart, helping you endure daily challenges and prolonging your batteries.

7. Contributing to Good Sleep

An active lifestyle allows you to produce high levels of melatonin — a regulator of sleep-wake cycles. Working out helps induce sleepiness by causing your core body temperature to drop after keeping it high at the height of physical activity.

8. Nurturing Mindfulness

The interplay between exercise and mindfulness promotes body and mind wellness. Various physical activities train you to heighten your awareness of bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings and the surroundings. You can achieve your fitness goals faster with increased self-awareness. For example, establishing the mind-muscle connection can maximize pulldowns to strengthen your back faster.

9. Combats Forgetfulness

Regular physical activity spurs the growth of the hippocampus, the brain section in charge of learning and memory. Working out as you age helps you retain your thinking and memorizing skills. If you’re an older adult, focusing on strength, aerobic or resistance training can improve your brain’s processing function and speed.

10. Lowering the Risk of Dementia

Understanding how exercise improves the mental health of aging individuals can help you and your loved ones prevent cognitive decline later in life. Regular exercise can reduce the chances of experiencing diabetes, stroke and heart disease — notable dementia risk factors.

Dementia patients can also benefit from light physical activity. For instance, leisure walks and gentle hiking are instrumental in the well-being of people with severe dementia.

11. Enhancing Concentration

Exploring how exercise improves mental health can make attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) more manageable. Exercising leads to high levels of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine — brain chemicals promoting attention and focus.

When combined with other treatments, exercise can reduce ADHD symptoms and help patients live more productive lives.

12. Overcoming Trauma

People with post-traumatic stress can use exercise as a health distraction for distressing thoughts. Performing physical activities involving arm and leg movements while being mindful of joint and muscle sensations can be beneficial. Pulsating outdoor activities, such as rock climbing, mountain biking and cross-country skiing, can keep your mind from wandering and help you create new fun memories to remember.

13. Building Resilience

Embracing exercise allows you to develop positive behaviors to cope with adversity constructively. People preoccupied with blissful physical activities are less likely to succumb to substance abuse, become an alcoholic or develop a gambling addiction.

14. Managing Anger

If you have anger management issues, enjoyable exercise can serve as a harmless outlet for your aggression. However, think twice about the physical activities you partake in because some contact sports may trigger your combative tendencies.

Go for something that can help calm you down instead. Yoga and tai chi are the go-to activities for anyone seeking inner peace. Strolling around public places with dozens of sculptures alone or with a friend marries physical activity and art therapy. Jump rope workouts let you sweat out your frustrations.

15. Addressing Boredom

Feeling bored can demotivate you from pursuing your goals. Boredom helps develop depressive symptoms and worsen anxiety disorders.

Doing various stimulating physical activities can help you overcome boredom. Diversified workouts provide a breather from your repetitive daily tasks. Trying different forms of exercise lets you experience novelty and gives you a much-needed change of pace to reinvigorate your zest for life.

16. Mitigating Loneliness

Exercise is a cure for social isolation. Going out of your house to exercise for better physical health is gaining membership in a community of like-minded individuals. If you’re insecure about your physique, having a flatter belly, gaining muscle mass or developing a firmer behind can make you feel less self-conscious and improve your social skills.

Physical Fitness Is Mental Fitness

Discovering how exercise improves mental health is eye-opening and life-changing. The psychological gains of working out can manifest sooner than its physical effects, so you can reap the rewards of regular physical activity without being a gym enthusiast.

This is a collaborative post supporting our Peace In Peace Out initiative.

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