Exercise is crucial for maintaining physical fitness. Whether you opt for the local gym to lift weights and use the treadmill or take a jog around the neighborhood, regular movement is essential. But did you know that exercise also offers numerous mental health benefits? Let's explore some of these advantages.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity ranks among the most vital steps you can take for your overall health. While it's well known that exercise aids in weight management and physical fitness, it also bestows several mental health benefits. If you've been feeling low or dealing with depression, exercise can significantly enhance your mental well-being.
Whether you choose to enroll in a gym for weightlifting, practice yoga, or simply go for a neighborhood run, the options are diverse when it comes to working out. If you're ready to start exercising, let's delve into the various mental health benefits you can expect to gain through regular exercise. Take a look below:
Reduces Symptoms of Depression
Depression is a challenging mental health disorder, but antidepressants are not the only solution. Exercise offers substantial benefits for managing depression by triggering the release of "feel-good" chemicals known as endorphins. Furthermore, it promotes the release of specific proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, encouraging nerve cells to grow and form new connections. This enhancement of brain function can help alleviate depressive symptoms.
Helps with Anxiety
Anxiety often accompanies depression in many individuals, and exercise can be beneficial for both conditions. Engaging in physical activity diverts your focus away from sources of anxiety and helps release muscle tension. As your heart rate rises, changes occur in your brain chemistry, resulting in the release of essential anti-anxiety chemicals, such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid. Regular exercise builds resilience against turbulent emotions.
If you struggle with sleep disturbances or frequent awakenings during the night, your mental health may be a contributing factor. To enhance the quality of your sleep, consider incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine, either after work or in the morning before starting your day. Exercise reduces sleep latency by tiring out your body and promoting deep sleep phases, minimizing disruptions. It leads to improved sleep quality, although intense exercise right before bedtime may hinder your ability to fall asleep.
Helps Relieve Stress
Stress is a common issue, particularly for those with demanding jobs or experiencing stressful life phases. However, you don't have to let stress control your personal life and relationships. Exercise is a highly effective means of reducing stress levels by lowering stress-related hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. As mentioned earlier, workouts release endorphins, which interact with brain receptors to reduce pain and stress perception, leading to a more positive mood and improved sleep.
Exercise serves not only as a means to shed pounds or maintain physical fitness but also delivers mental health benefits, as outlined above. Once you've incorporated exercise into your routine, you may find yourself addicted to the positive effects it brings, and even a day without exercise may feel like a missed opportunity. These mental health benefits will undoubtedly contribute to your overall well-being, leaving you feeling significantly better after each workout.
Written by: Deepti Dogra
Edited by: Aniket Joshi