This time of year, many people are hyper-focused on keeping their New Year resolution fitness goals. Exercise is great for our physical health. It helps us control our weight, lower blood pressure, reduces the risk of diseases such as diabetes, gives us an energy boost, and more. But exercise is more than just beneficial for our physical health – it’s great for our mental health as well. The benefits of exercise for our mental health is long, including improved memory and helping ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Here are a few psychological benefits of exercise that might give you a bit more motivation to get your sneakers on.
Exercise Boosts Your Mood
Exercise has been shown to help ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. When we engage in physical activity, our body releases more endorphins. Endorphins are the “feel good” chemical that is created in our brains, helping us feel happier. Moderate exercise is often recommended by mental health practitioners as a natural way to help with depression and anxiety.
Even light to moderate exercise throughout the week can help us reduce our stress levels. When our heart rate increases, the production of neurohormones such as norepinephrine is stimulated. Neurohormones improve our mood and can help to reverse stress-induced brain damage. Our body also becomes more adaptable to stress and its ability to respond to stressors through exercise.
Improved Confidence and Self-Esteem
If you’ve got a few pounds to lose or just want to improve your overall muscle tone or general cardiovascular health, regular exercise can help you get there. Participating in regular exercise can help boost self-esteem and self-confidence, particularly if you achieve your fitness-related goals.
Get Better Sleep
Exercise can help you get a better night’s sleep. Our body temperature increases with physical activity, which can have a calming effect on our bodies. Exercise also helps to regulate our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our body’s internal “clock” that controls when we feel tired or awake. A perk of improving sleep quality is improving our overall mood as well. Everyone generally feels better when they are well-rested.
Build Your Brainpower
Many human studies have shown that exercise can help to build our intelligence and improve our memory. Cardiovascular exercise helps us create new brain cells, which improves our brain performance and can help prevent memory loss. Regular exercise can also help to improve our mental energy and creativity.
Whether your exercise goals are big or small, even a little added activity can have big benefits for your mental health. Be sure to discuss any new fitness plans with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.