Many people hit the gym or pound the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course, get a great body, but working out also has been known to boost brain functions. Here we list some of the unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.
Reduce stress: One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress
Boost happy chemicals: Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. For this reason, doctors recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety (or those who are just feeling blue) pencil in plenty of gym time.
Improve Self-Confidence: On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth
Prevent Cognitive Decline: Working out especially between age 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.
Boost Brainpower: Various studies on men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning.
Sharpen Memory: Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning. For this reason, research has linked children’s brain development with level of physical fitness. But exercise-based brainpower isn’t just for kids, working out can boost memory among grown-ups, too. A study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults.
Increase Relaxation: For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it is time to sleep.