5 Major Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

From relieving stress to protecting the body from injury, there’s a lot of good to be reaped from exercise. But moving your body can grant so much more than a fit figure. Studies show that regardless of age or fitness level, making time for exercise can provide some serious mental health benefits. 

Promote Happy Feelings

Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Research has shown that, in some cases, exercise works as well as medication for some people in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression – and the effects can be long-lasting. One vigorous exercise session can alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time. 

Prevent Cognitive Decline

The brain typically shrinks in late adulthood, and this shrinkage is believed to play a role in age-related memory decline. Working out, especially between ages 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning. 

Physical exercise is also important in keeping mentally sharp in old age. A 2012 study of people in their early 70s found that those who engaged in regular physical exercise, such as walking, retained bigger brains than those who were inactive.

Increase Relaxation

Ever hit the hay after a long run or weight session at the gym? For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Moving around 5 to 6 hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back down to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep.

Boost Brainpower

Various studies conducted on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning. 

Help Control Addiction

Dedicated physical activity during treatment and recovery will help reintroduce natural levels of endorphins into the system. This not only helps with feeling better, but it also reteaches the body that it is capable of regulating its own brain chemistry and mood in healthy, natural ways.

Additionally, exercise and physical activity can make the journey to sobriety easier by increasing the rate of abstinence, easing withdrawal symptoms, acting as a distraction from cravings, and relieving any anxiety and depression that may arise during recovery.

Since completing my undergraduate studies, I've dedicated my time to supporting and empowering individuals with behavioral health issues. This blog is to be a platform for the behavioral health community; examining the history of behavioral health and the progressions made within the field while providing information and resources to those who need it.

1 comment on “5 Major Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

  1. Every time I look there’s a new reason to work out. I always have an excuse to get moving

    Liked by 1 person

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