The many physical benefits of exercise – improving fitness and preventing health issues – are well known. Physical activity is also vital to keep you mentally healthy. Studies have shown that it can reduce stress, lessen fatigue, enhance cognitive function and improve alertness and concentration.
This is why experts always encourage staying physically active. Exercise is especially helpful when your ability to concentrate and energy has been depleted by stress. Here are a few ways fitness can help with anxiety and stress.
1. Reduces Stress
When you’ve had a rough day at work, the best thing you can do for yourself is head to the gym for a quick workout.
Stress relief is one of the most common mental benefits of working out. It is a great way to manage mental and physical stress.
Exercise improves the concentration of norepinephrine, which is a chemical that can regulate the brain’s stress response. So, go ahead and sweat it out to boost your body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension.
2. Boosts Happy Chemicals
An intensive workout can be tough, but it is well worth the effort.
When you work out, endorphins are released which create feelings of euphoria and happiness.
Research has also shown that exercise can help people who are clinically depressed. This is why anyone suffering from anxiety disorders or depression should make it a point to get in plenty of exercise time.
Several people have found that working out can be as effective as medication at treating mental disorders. Even if you’re not a fan of the gym, you can get a happy buzz and boost your mood overall from sweating it out for just 30 minutes, a couple of times a week.
3. Reduces Anxiety
The next time you’re feeling anxious, skip that bubble bath for a 20-minute jog.
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Exercise releases warm, fuzzy chemicals that can help alleviate anxiety. Sweating it out has a calming effect on people with anxiety disorders.
Moderate to high-intensity exercise such as running, or interval training can bring down your sensitivity to anxiety. Physical activity is not just good for burning calories!
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4. Improves Brain Power
A number of studies have shown that regular workouts can stimulate neurogenesis or the creation of new brain cells. This has the ability to improve overall brain performance.
Research suggests that an intense workout can increase the production of a brain-derived protein called BDNF. This protein helps with clear thinking, better learning and is also believed to enhance decision making.
5. Helps You Get Better Sleep
If you find yourself struggling with insomnia, a good workout can help with that as well.
Exercise boosts body temperature, which can calm the mind and lead to you getting a good night’s sleep.
When you get some form of physical activity regularly, your circadian rhythm is regulated. This is your body’s built-in alarm clock that determines when you feel alert or tired.
However, it’s not a good idea to exercise close to bedtime, since you can end up feeling energized and raring to go.
6. Sharpens Memory
Exercise can improve your ability to retain memories and pick up new things.
The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory. Physical activity increases the production of cells in the hippocampus. This way exercise actually boosts your brain development and power.
In addition to getting your heart pumping, it also gets your brain going, and this is the reason for all the associated positive effects. Overall inflammation of the body is reduced and circulation is improved which keeps the brain sharper overall.
7. Increases Self-Esteem
There are a number of physical improvements that happen because of regular exercise such as weight loss and an increase in muscle tone. Before you realize it, you’ll have a slimmer physique and your clothes will start to fit better.
As the result of the physical progress you make, your self-esteem and confidence level will be boosted in the process. This is one of the many mind, body, and spirit enhancing benefits of physical exercise.
The positive effects of working out go far beyond the physical benefits. It will help you get out of a funk, think smarter and gain self-confidence. Due to its many mental and emotional benefits, it can help you deal with anxiety and stress.
So it is well worth it to make the time to exercise on a regular basis.
About the Author
Luke Carter writes about mental wellness and benefits of brain supplements at Nootrina. He’s a big fan of Yoga and mindfulness and feels that these two are the real key to mental well-being. Being a foodie, Luke loves cooking and brings several cuisines to bear at his dinner table. He’s looking to improve the awareness about mental health issues and share ways to handle them among people of all ages.