This guest post, by Patrick Bailey, will be covering the many ways that exercising helps you boost your mental health and stay on top of your game.
It is widely accepted that working out confers physical benefits that can prevent a myriad of diseases from diabetes to cardiovascular problems. The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise every week for adults. In the report, it is noted that lack of exercise is one of the greatest contributors to global mortality.
However, physical health is not the only reason you should work out regularly. Exercise has many mental health benefits that can improve your quality of life. Its positive effects may even be used to address co-occurring disorders since it is a low-cost intervention with a few side effects. Here are some of the research-backed the mental health benefits of working out.
One of the major benefits of working out regularly is in reducing the risk of stress and depression. With more people around the world now living in urban areas, the prevalence of this mental condition is increasing. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise are some of the factors that lead to an increase in clinical cases of depression.
Depression shares many pathophysiological factors with inflammation and oxidative stress. Exercise helps contain inflammation and its effects.
Prevents Cognitive decline
Aging is often associated with cognitive decline. As the population of people over the age of 65 increases, it is important to delay this decline to ensure the aging population maintains their quality of life.
Degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia can be delayed with moderate but regular physical activity. Studies suggest that as little as two and a half hours a week is adequate in keeping these degenerative diseases at bay. It prevents these conditions from killing brain cells and keeps your cognitive abilities and memory sharp.
Boosts Feel Good chemicals
People who work out regularly report feeling a sense of happiness and contentment in what is referred to as “runners high.” This feeling of bliss can be so strong, that they feel like they can’t miss a session at the gym.
Exercise can boost the following chemicals which work to improve your mood and a general sense of well-being:
- Norepinephrine: This hormone is produced during relatively high-intensity workouts. It can improve memory and focus.
- Serotonin: Physical activity boosts levels of serotonin in the body. Low levels of this hormone are associated with depression.
- Endorphins: This chemical handles a runner’s high. It helps to reduce the sensation of pain and makes working out a more pleasant experience.
- Dopamine: Dopamine is a chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It handles sustaining cognitive pathways responsible for motivation.
Working out can also help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Exercise helps your body and mind cope with symptoms of anxiety and depression. It works by restoring the function of Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Axis. The HPA axis regulates hormones associated with stress and anxiety. Engaging in moderate to high-intensity exercise will help check the stressors.
Exercise can boost your memory in two main ways. One is that it works on your physical body to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. It also facilitates the growth of brain cells and blood vessels to boost your brain capacity. Clinical trials have demonstrated that people who work out regularly have more brain cells in areas associated with memory.
Additionally, the effect of feel-good hormones on the brain reduces anxiety and depression. These are factors that are associated with low reduced memory and thinking capacity.
Addiction is often caused by co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions. These conditions increase the distress experienced by the addict compelling them to turn to drugs, alcohol, or even junk food to self-medicate.
Working out regularly has an overall positive effect on the body and mind. The feel-good hormones reduce distress, making it easier for the addict to perform on a day-to-day basis without drugs. Another positive effect of exercise is that it is distracting and keeps you busy reducing the need to occupy yourself with alcohol and other substances.
Boosts Brain Capacity
Another reason exercise is important for your mental health is that it helps increase the function and capacity of your brain. It helps to regenerate brain cells in the region of the brain known as the hippocampus. This region handles memory formation, spatial navigation, emotions, and learning.
Physical activity also increases the levels of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor). This is a type of a growth factor that handles creating new neurons and the maintenance of existing ones. It is also responsible for higher cognitive function and learning.
Exercise positively affects insomnia and other sleep problems. Several factors are responsible for this positive effect. By relieving stress and anxiety, physical activity can reduce the cases of insomnia and other sleep disorders. Expending more energy throughout the day will signal your body that it needs to rest. Aerobic exercise is one of the effective ways you can eliminate insomnia.
Working out regularly increases the brains cortical plasticity. Cortical plasticity can be defined as the ability of your brain to reorganize itself by creating new neural connections for individual instances. If you experience a writer’s block or any kind of creative block, try walking.
A study from Stanford University tried to establish the creative output of people while they were walking as opposed to when they were seated. The conclusion is that the creative output of those walking was about 60% higher than the seating group.
Connect and Inspire Others
Going to the gym or taking part in aerobic exercises can be a good way to connect with friends, colleagues and loved ones. Scientific evidence confirms that performance is boosted when we work out with others. Couples who exercise together report that it helps them strengthen their emotional bond, improve the result of the workout, and can even increase the level of sexual attraction between lovers. Get your partner or find a friend and start working out for an enhanced overall quality of life.
Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.
Full Name: Patrick Bailey
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