The Benefits of Exercise For Mental Health and Cognitive Function

People living with mental illnesses often struggle with low motivation and can easily fall off exercise routines. Yet moderate physical activity has the power to boost mood and enhance overall functioning.

Exercise may seem like the same old story: aerobic capacity and muscle growth. Yet exercise has many other health advantages that go well beyond aerobic fitness and muscle size: cognitive enhancement and mood enhancement are two great outcomes of being physically active.

1. Increased Self-Esteem

Research indicates that those who regularly exercise tend to have higher self-esteem. Exercising releases feel-good chemicals into the brain which contributes to improved mood and increased self-worth.

Feeling good about yourself can help you manage everyday stressors more easily and make better decisions at home and at work. Your sense of self-confidence may even impact other aspects of your life such as body image.

Exercise can quickly boost your mood when feeling down, making it an effective frontline treatment alongside antidepressants or psychotherapy. If you’re new to being physically active, start slowly by engaging in small increments such as walking or light workout sessions – over time increase the effort as a regular practice!

2. Reduced Stress

Many people find exercise beneficial for relieving stress levels. Be it an intense gym session or simply walking a few laps around the block, physical activity can stimulate neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine which act as natural mood elevators and reduce cortisol stress hormone levels which trigger “fight or flight” reactions in individuals, helping to alleviate tension.

Research has demonstrated the power of exercise to significantly decrease depression risk. Indeed, multiple clinical trials have proven its efficacy as an antidepressant medicine alternative.

Not everyone can or wishes to spend hours per week sweating buckets in a gym and running endless miles, but experts say that 30-minute sessions five or more times each week should suffice to reap the benefits of exercise for mental health.

3. Better Sleep

Exercise can do wonders for our bodies, but its psychological benefits may be less well known. Movement not only reduces daily stress and energy drain, and improves sleep quality – but can even prevent future mental health struggles!

Studies have shown that even low-intensity exercises like walking or running can be effective treatments for depression. Scientists believe this is possible because exercise strengthens the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with depression, which helps relieve symptoms by strengthening nerve cell connections.

Researchers are discovering that exercise is so good for the mind that it can actually boost memory and cognitive functioning – particularly aerobic exercises like running, swimming, cycling or dancing.

4. Better Memory

Apart from the mental benefits associated with regular physical exercise, regular activity also offers impressive physical advantages. From controlling blood pressure, cholesterol levels and diabetes to relieving depression and anxiety symptoms – there are numerous psychological reasons for lacing up those sneakers regularly.

Memory improvement exercises such as creating a to-do list or keeping a daily journal can help cement events and facts into your memory. According to experts, visual cues such as associating new information with familiar ones or categorizing it can also aid memory recall later. Chunking is another technique which may aid the process, which allows people to recall events from memory later.

Physical exercise can also improve memory by activating the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes growth of new neurons in your hippocampus – which plays a crucial role in memory formation and retrieval. Studies suggest that aerobic and strength exercises may provide added benefits.

5. Reduced Anxiety

Though most people exercise to lose weight, tone muscles, and enhance sex life, research has demonstrated its power as an anxiety reliever. Even short bouts of physical activity such as walking or running around the block for just 15 minutes per session may help ease anxiety symptoms, according to Patricia Celan, a postgraduate psychiatry resident. For optimal results she suggests taking a brisk walk or running around your block as a quick burst of cardiovascular exercise to decrease nervous system responses to stressors.

Exercise can provide a sense of achievement as one of the best forms of self-care, she suggests, by seeing your strength and fitness increase over time, she notes. That can then help improve your mood while relieving symptoms associated with anxiety or depression – according to one recent study, regular physical activity reduces the number of days experienced poor mental health.

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