How Staying Physically Active Can Improve Your Mental Health
Updated: Apr 27
You’ve probably heard from every doctor, PE teacher, and your parents that being physically active is important for your health. While getting regular exercise can help you keep a healthy weight, improve your cardio fitness and help you to feel better physically, being active does more than improve your physical prowess. Recent studies suggest that exercising can actually give your mental health quite a boost. The reasons behind this are numerous, though the following list gives you some of the most common reasons why you really do get a high from your afternoon workout or your Saturday morning pickup game.
Exercise Releases Endorphins
When you exercise, your body releases those feel-good hormones that leave you with what is often attributed to phenomena like the runner’s high. The effects of these feel-good chemicals, which include dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, can last hours after you exercise. Exercise can also balance your stress hormones, such as adrenaline, allowing your to relax a little bit. They can also help with many conditions, like anxiety and depression, which according to Transformations Treatment Center are becoming much more common. Exercise is a great, natural way to help improve your mental health and the long-lasting effects can make any day seem brighter.
Exercise Builds Confidence
The reasons that exercise builds confidence are many. First of all, you burn calories and tone your muscles, which, over time, causes you to look better. It doesn’t even take that long for the effects to start showing, especially if you couple it with healthy eating. Within one day of exercising, lean muscle starts to develop. If you regularly visit the gym or workout, you’ll burn more fat and build more muscle, whether your want to look toned or bulk up. When you look better, you often feel better. Additionally, exercise can help ease some types of injuries that can be a contributing factor to depression. As you exercise regularly, you will also begin to get stronger and your ability to perform physically will improve. Hitting goals and improving can help instill self-confidence as you prove you can do things that are difficult and that you couldn’t do previously. In order for this to be most effective, you need to keep track of your workouts and compare them. Comparing every day won’t show any useful progress, so it is better to compare your performance on a monthly basis or every other month. Make sure you are comparing the same workout from different time periods for the best view of your progress.
Exercise Increases Blood Flow
It’s not just the feel-good chemicals, however, that make you feel good after you’ve been active. Exercise also increases the amount of blood flow and oxygen that goes to your brain. The more oxygen you have in your brain, the better you think, which is why you may feel more clear headed after a good workout. The hippocampus is also active during exercise and is critical for learning and memory. You are better able to learn and remember things when it is more active, which may also explain the correlation. So if you are trying to study and you keep hitting a wall, going for a brisk walk or jog around the block may be just what you need to push through. This increased blood flow can be exceptionally important for those who have hit their golden years, a time when cognitive function is typically on the decline. However, having more oxygen to the brain allows it to function for much longer and may even stave off dementia.
Exercise Gets You Outside
Whether you are in school or you work 40 hours a week, you probably don’t get a ton of time outside. Being outside has many benefits, including absorbing more Vitamin D and being more social, but when combined with exercise, these benefits, combined with the other ones the exercise brings can be incredibly powerful for lifting your mood. While research hasn’t fully figured out the correlation between being outside and health, it is suggested that it may have something to do with better air quality, and more socializing and relaxing. If you regularly work out in a gym, try going for a run outside at least once a week.
While it can be difficult to maintain a regular exercise schedule, lacing up your jogging shoes or going out for a bike ride can do more than just tone up your legs. It could actually make you happier in the long run. Making and implementing a good exercise routine regularly will help you to remain happier and healthier throughout your life, so why not give it a shot?
Staying physically active helps you to have better mental health, but sometimes you still need some extra help. Contact us if you need individual therapy to address your needs and we’ll be happy to help!
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