Every day, lots of people are trooping to the gym to build lean muscle, improve their cardiovascular health, and ultimately get a rockstar body. But beyond the physical benefits, exercising has lots of mental benefits too. For a long time now, scientists have been studying the effects of exercise on the brain, and the findings are nothing short of mind-blowing—pun intended, of course.
Let’s check out some of the top mental health benefits you stand to reap from a regular exercise routine, below:
For a lot of people, exercising has turned into some sort of addiction. This is because of the mood-enhancing effect that a good old jog or treadmill session provides to the brain. Ever heard of endorphins? Yeah, that’s the name of the feel-good chemicals, according to science. Just a few minutes of any exercise that gets your heart pumping is enough to trigger the release of these chemicals and elevate your mood.
Many studies have also shown how a workout can help ease the symptoms in people suffering from depression. In some instances, exercise has been shown to be just as effective, if not more, in treating depression. So if feeling down in the dumps is becoming a daily thing for you, why not make the gym your friend? But no need to worry if you’re not quite the gym freak— sweating it out for just 30 minutes a day for a few times a week can provide all the benefits you need.
Reduce stress and anxiety
We’ve already looked at how exercise releases mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain. It is for this reason that people suffering from stress or some anxiety disorders can greatly benefit. If you can make exercise a regular habit, you’ll notice that the amount of stress you have to cope with on a daily basis will keep shrinking. This is because besides endorphins, exercise has been shown to also increase the concentration of norepinephrine, an important checimical for regulating the brain’s stress response.
A 20-minute jog can also help alleviate anxiety better than alcohol and other drugs, or even a warm bubble bath. That’s because during and after exercise, your brain is all warm and fuzzy, which means you’re in a good mood. This in effect helps you calm down. So if you get anxious lot of the time, hopping on the treadmill can be a good way cope, both in the short term and the long term.
Boost brain power
When it comes to enhancing cognitive power, few things are as effective as physical activity. Many studies on lab rats have shown that cardio exercises can generate new brain cells, a phenomenon known as neurogenesis. So every time you exercise, you are not only enhancing physical fitness, but mental sharpness as well. With neurogenesis, your ability to learn, think, and make better decisions is enhanced.
In addition to boosting logical function, exercising also helps you tap into your creativity. A recent study shows that an intense session at the gym can enhance your creative abilities for up to 2 hours afterwards. So next time you‘re looking for a burst of inspiration, just take a nice brisk walk, or a swim. If the weather does not permit outdoor activities, a treadmill could be just what you need. Be sure to have a look at http://www.treadmilltrends.com/ for some in-depth reviews of the best treadmills.
Slow cognitive decline
Sad as it may sound, as you get older, your brain gradually loses its sharpness. Due to neurogenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other effects of aging, many brain cells just die off, leading to a decline in thinking and memory capabilities. Regular workouts can however slow this process down considerably, thanks to neurogenesis.
What better way to control addictions than a free and proven mood enhancing activity? One of the reasons alcohol, coffee, drugs, sex and even food can become so addictive has to do with the reward chemical we’ve all heard of: dopamine. Well, the good news is that exercise also fires the same reward centers to release dopamine. By engaging in short bursts of exercise to get the heart pumping, so many recovering addicts are able to ward off their drug cravings. Thinking of quitting smoking? Try a short workout—it will cost you nothing, and can produce a better feeling than that cigar.
So there you have it—five ways exercise can improve your mental health, and ultimately, overall wellbeing. Hit the gym today or stock up on some good exercise equipment and start reaping the rewards right away!