Most everyone is well-aware of the physical benefits of exercise. But did you know that exercise is also one of the most-effective ways to maintain your mental health and keep your brain healthy too? Here are five ways that exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
Exercise and stress – Exercise is recognized as one of the best ways to reduce stress. When you exercise, it metabolizes stress hormones in your blood and increases levels of your body’s built-in anti-anxiety hormones, making you feel calmer and lifting your mood. In addition, regular exercise can be a diversion from day-to-day stress and can provide a sedative effect through natural physical movement.
Exercise and depression – Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication – but without the side effects. In addition to relieving depressive symptoms, research also has shown that regular exercise can prevent you from relapsing.
Exercise and sleep – People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, according to a recent study. Also, exercise is one of the most important things you can do to overcome or lessen insomnia. It can help you fall asleep easier and faster and sleep more restfully and deeper.
Exercise and your brain – Exercise enhances brain function. During exercise, the heart pumps more blood to the brain. Delivering more blood means more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the brain, which are good for brain cells and make the brain healthier. In addition, the most-recent studies have shown that exercise boosts the brain’s rate of neurogenesis – the rate at which the brain regenerates brain cells.
Exercise and aging – Exercise slows the aging process. Brain researchers say that exercise slows down the degeneration of the body and brain by sending powerful chemical messages to every cell in the body to “stay strong and grow.”
No matter your age or fitness level, you can enjoy the benefits of exercise. Wondering just how active you need to be to get a mental health boost? Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times per week is the recommendation. Aerobic exercises such as running, brisk walking, swimming, cycling or group-exercise classes are best.