For most of us, we exercise to either lose weight or grow muscles. But working out is much more than a fat-incinerating activity for sculpting your body. Research shows that exercise provides several mental benefits irrespective of the intensity or level of exercise. If you are wondering how exercise can improve your brain function, here are some of the benefits of working out for your mental health and wellbeing.
Exercise Relieves Stress
Exercise is an effective tool for releasing tension and stress from the mind and body. Have you ever noticed that you become lighter and have fewer things to worry about during and after your workouts? This is because exercise can alleviate mental and physical stress, reduce built-up tension in the body and increase the release of norepinephrine, which promotes the brain's ability to manage stress.
Whether you had an uncomfortable discussion with your spouse or your boss was inconsiderate to you at work; hit the gym or tracks and sweat it out. You will feel much better afterward.
Prevents Age-induced Cognitive Decline
Exercise can also help prevent cognitive decline when we begin to age. As we grow older, the hippocampus, an essential part of the brain for learning and memory, starts to degenerate, leading to weak or dwindling memories and reduced learning abilities. The brain also shrinks with age, and the loss of brain cells to degenerative diseases makes us lose vital cognitive functions as well.
We can reduce this by exercising. In fact, working out is especially important between 25-45 years as it helps to improve the production of chemicals that protect the brain from degeneration.
Improves the Mood
Exercise lifts our mood by promoting the release of feel-good hormones, or endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for our feelings of happiness and euphoria, and when in abundance can help treat symptoms of people suffering from depression and anxiety. In fact, some mental health practitioners recommend exercise as an effective alternative to anti-depressants.
It is amazing what 30 minutes of exercise can do to your mood. The next time you are feeling down, try to exercise, and you will notice the fantastic turnaround in your moods.
Promotes Brain Function
Research has found that aerobic exercises or cardiovascular workouts can help build new brain cells and promote general brain function.
Research has also linked high-intensity workouts to the release of BDNF, a brain-derived protein which is thought to improve learning, critical thinking, and decision making.
So, you should move more if you want to become more adept at decision making and learning.
Boost Your Self-Esteem
In addition to promoting physical health, exercise can also promote our self-esteem and self-worth. The way we perceive our self-worth and how we feel about ourself is self-esteem. Self-esteem is an important factor for mental health, and low self-esteem can reduce our ability to cope with stressful living conditions.
Studies have found that exercise can help boost self-worth and self-esteem among individuals of different ages and sexes.
Exercise is a potent tool for improving physical and mental health in the young and old. Whether you engage in moderate or high-intensity workouts, it’s important to lead a physically active life to avoid buildup of stress, cognitive degeneration, and improve your self-esteem.