We’ve all heard that exercise is good for us, knowing it will make us healthier and live longer. But many people don’t know about the other important benefits of exercise: how it can help us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage. These benefits are seen throughout the lifespan, including among those living with serious mental and physical health challenges. Here are 6 ways exercise changes your brain and improves your mental.
1. Improves Your Mood, Reduces Stress & Anxiety
Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.
2. Improves Your Sleep
If you get your body moving, you’ll feel better. Numerous studies have shown that exercise improves sleep quality. Better sleep means more energy. And it’s easier to exercise when you have energy. It’s a wonderful cycle.
3. Improves Your Focus and Boost Your Memory
Since working out can improve so many other aspects of our cognition, it should come as no surprise that it can also boost memory. Studies show that mild-to-moderate physical activity, such as walking, yoga, or resistance training, can help maintain your cognitive health. They show that exercise can even help improve focus. They have found that 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-to-high-intensity physical activity had an immediate improvement on focus.
4. Makes You Brave
Courage is another side effect of physical activity on the brain. At the very same time that a new exercise habit is enhancing the reward system, it also increases neural connections among areas of the brain that calm anxiety. Regular physical activity can also modify the default state of the nervous system so that it becomes more balanced and less prone to fight.
5. Improve Your Self-Esteem with Exercise
It’s probably safe to surmise that sitting in front of a screen all day at work and in front of the TV all night isn’t doing much for your physical health or self-image. A sedentary lifestyle does little to raise your fitness level, your energy, your self-confidence or your general sense of well-being. But looking good, feeling strong and having a positive attitude — the attributes of self-esteem — are all benefits of a regular exercise regime.
6. The Exercise “High” Primes You to Connect with Others
Exercise also primes us to connect with others, by increasing the pleasure we derive from being around other people, which can strengthen relationships. Many people use exercise as an opportunity to connect with friends or loved ones. Among married couples, when spouses exercise together, both partners report more closeness later that day, including feeling loved and supported.
* All content published is for general information purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.