Top 5 Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise
We often talk about all the amazing benefits of exercise on our physical health, such as improved endurance, strength, power, athleticism, BMI, body fat percentage, etc.
But what about our mental health? What effects does exercise have on things like stress, depression, anxiety, etc.?
1. Mood Enhancement.
Almost everyone knows that they feel great after a workout. Studies have shown, however, that not only is there a substantial improvement in mood immediately following exercise, but there are long-term improvements as well.
Research has continually shown that long-term exercise regimens help lessen depression severity.
In a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2007, sedentary, depressed adults were placed into 3 groups. They were either given a placebo, administered an anti-depressant, or placed on an exercise regimen. After 4 months, both the exercise and anti-depressant group experienced major improvements.
However, after a year, the exercise group had no relapse compared to the anti-depressant group. Thus, the study showed that the long-term, effective remedy for depression was an exercise program.
To be fair, depression is much more complex than a simple exercise regimen, but the effects of exercise are quite remarkable.
2. Reduced Levels Of Anxiety
Anxiety and exercise, coincidentally, experience many of the same symptoms. They both entail higher heart rates, sweating, and higher blood pressure.
To test exercise’s effect on anxiety, in a study published in Depression and Anxiety Journal in 2008, researchers, Smit and colleagues tested 60 subjects with reportedly high levels of anxiety. After only a 2-week regimen, subjects experienced great improvements in anxiety sensitivity.
When exercising, we release norepinephrine, which is a chemical that our brain releases to moderate our stress response. Thus, exercising is great for reducing stress.
3. Keeps Our Minds “Young”
As we age, our brains begin to deteriorate. By working out, we can help our brain combat different degenerative disorders, such as alzheimers. Working out increases chemicals in the brain that protect that against degeneration of the hippocampus, which plays a large role in learning and memory.
4. Improve Memory
When we exercise, there is an increase in the number of cells produced in the hippocampus. These cells specialize in memorization and our ability to learn new things.
In research studying the effect of exercise on children, it was found that there was a correlation between activity level and brain development. Thus, it is extremely important for children to stay active!
Research has also shown that adults who exercise improve memory as well. A study conducted showed that grown-ups who performed sprints were better able to learn new vocabulary.
5. Help Addiction
No matter the source of pleasure, be it drugs, exercise, sugar, sex, etc., our body releases dopamine. This chemical makes us “happy.” Addiction is, essentially, the strong desire to do whatever causes that release of dopamine. Thus, the alcoholic will turn to alcohol, the sex-addict to sex, etc.
The good news is that exercise can help. By exercising, addicts are temporarily distracted from their addiction, and because exercise releases dopamine as well, it can be a really good tool to use when trying to quit an addiction.
People are more apt to make positive changes when exercising. The most difficult aspect of experiencing these benefits is getting started. Once you get started, however, your life will improve in ways you never thought possible!
About Danny Maman My name is Danny Maman. I have a real passion for health and fitness and enjoy having a life that revolves around this. I have my bachelor's degree in exercise science with a minor in allied health. I am also a certified personal trainer with ACE and am a former college basketball player.