Exercise Boosts Mental Health
Exercise Boosts Mental Health. Exercise is great for your physical health, but it also boosts your mental health. Research shows that moderate amounts of exercise can help reduce stress, improve memory, and improve mood.
But it doesn’t have to be an expensive and time-consuming commitment to reap these benefits. Even a 30-minute session five times a week can improve your mental health.
1. Reduces Stress
Most people are aware that exercise can help improve their health and overall quality of life, but they often struggle to fit it into their busy schedules. Fortunately, it’s not hard to make exercise a priority if you are motivated and willing to put in the work.
Physical activity is a powerful tool for stress management, and it does more than just reduce the physical symptoms of stress like blood pressure and heart rate. It also improves your brain function and overall well-being.
For people with mental illnesses, regular exercise can be an especially helpful coping strategy. It can help reduce social withdrawal, increase self-esteem, and even enhance their pleasure quotient, says Firth.
Although research is still elucidating the mechanisms by which exercise helps with mental health, it’s clear that it has a broad effect. It changes brain structure and may boost serotonin and neurotrophic factors in the part of the brain that regulates mood. It also can boost self-esteem, normalize sleep and improve memory.
2. Boosts Self-Esteem
Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem in a number of ways. Not only does it improve your body image, but it also gives you a sense of accomplishment that can help to boost your confidence.
Moreover, physical fitness helps to increase your overall well-being and can even prevent depression. Several studies have shown that aerobic exercise can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression and reduce negative thoughts.
This can be achieved by following a routine that includes both strength training and cardiovascular activity. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests 150 to 300 minutes of moderately intense activity each week to reap the mental health benefits.
The mood-enhancing effects of exercise are largely due to the release of endorphins, which can decrease feelings of anxiety and depression and promote a more positive attitude. In addition, being active can also encourage you to set and achieve goals that will have a direct impact on your self-esteem.
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3. Improves Memory
Exercise boosts mental health in a number of ways, from boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine to improving memory and helping people maintain their cognitive abilities as they age.
A study using Fitbit data from 113 people found that those who exercised more often performed better on a variety of memory tests, including episodic and spatial tasks, which refer to our ability to remember things in time and place. This is a particularly important finding for people with anxiety and depression since these conditions tend to lead to distorted memory.
The findings also showed that different types of exercise, especially high-intensity exercises, may affect memory in different ways. For instance, people who do HIIT workouts are more likely to perform better on spatial memory tasks, which involve the ability to remember where items in space (like your keys) are located.
4. Reduces Anxiety
Exercise releases mood-regulating chemicals such as endorphins and endocannabinoids, which can help reduce anxiety. It also increases the oxygen supply to the brain and promotes neuroplasticity.
It’s no secret that physical activity boosts overall health and prevents a host of chronic diseases. But it may be surprising to learn that regular exercise also improves mental health, including symptoms associated with anxiety disorders like social anxiety disorder and panic attacks.
The best type of exercise for mental health is cardiovascular activity such as brisk walking, running, biking, and swimming. But complex movements such as martial arts, ballet, and ice skating have also been linked to improvements in mood.
However, little is known about how the amount of exercise, its intensity, or the type of physical fitness affects anxiety levels among men and women. In the present study, we investigated the association between participation in an ultralong-distance cross-country ski race (Vasaloppet, up to 90 km) and the risk of anxiety during follow-up in a large sample of people.