Top 10 Benefits of Exercise to help with Mental Illnesses

Regardless of age or fitness levels, studies have shown that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. People gain from exercising on a regular basis in several ways, such as boosting self-confidence, creating a daily routine, and even promoting smarter thinking.

  1. Reduce Stress – One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. Working out can also reduce stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension.
  2. Boost Brain Chemicals – Exercise releases endorphins, which creates feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Furthermore, exercise can help the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45. Working out especially between age 25 and 45 boosts the chemicals in the brain to support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.
  3. Improve Self-confidence – On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender, or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her self-worth. For an extra boost try working out outdoors which in turn can increase self-esteem even more. Plus, all that vitamin D acquired from soaking up the sun (while wearing sunscreen, of course!) can lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms.
  4. Alleviate Anxiety – The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Hopping on the track or treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety sensitivity.
  5. Boost Brainpower – Cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells, called neurogenesis, and improve overall brain performance. Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein, known as BDNF, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning.
  6. Sharpen Memory – Regular physical activity boosts memory and the ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning. A study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults.
  7. Help Control Addiction – The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure, be that exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol, or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol. Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings. Alcohol abuse disrupts many body processes, including circadian rhythms. As a result, alcoholics find they can’t fall asleep or stay asleep with drinking. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, helping people hit the hay at the right time.
  8. Increase Relaxation – A moderate workout can be equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep.
  9. Get More Done – Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian rhythms.
  10. Inspire Others – Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy. Pin it to inspiration or good old-fashioned completion, nobody wants to let the other person down. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and moving!

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