Physical activity is very important for your overall health. It doesn’t only make you look better, it makes you feel better too. Scientific studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental health benefits.
The link between exercise and mental health is pretty strong. Usually, within five minutes after moderate exercise, you get a mood-enhancement effect. But the effects of physical activity extend beyond the short-term. Research shows that exercise can also help alleviate stress, depression, anxiety, etc. Besides obvious physical benefits of exercise like – having a healthy cardiovascular system, building muscles, improving your joints and bones it’s also great for your brain. Why is this so?
Physical activity increases your serotonin, dopamine, and endorphin levels in your brain. It’s also very beneficial for the growth of your neurons. Which all in overall results with your better mood and relaxation.
Top 5 benefits of exercise for your mental wellbeing:
1. Boosts your brain functions
As usual, there are some scientific studies that backups this claim. Workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning. Cardiovascular exercise is very beneficial for the creation of new brain cells and improves overall brain performance.
2. Increases focus and memory
Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Exercises increase production of cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning. Research indicates the direct connection of children’s brain development with the level of physical fitness. Also, it works well for grown-ups too. Working out can boost memory vocabulary retention among healthy adults.
3. Reduces stress
One of the most common benefits of exercise on mental health is stress relief. Working out can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.
4. Alleviates Depression and Anxiety
Physical activity can reduce levels of anxiety in people with mild symptoms and to some extent may also be helpful for treating clinical anxiety. Some researchers suspect exercise alleviates chronic depression by increasing serotonin (neurotransmitter) or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (which supports the growth of neurons).
5. Helps with better sleep
New studies conclude that people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent substitute for a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia.
How much should you exercise
Physical activity is available to all, has moderately costs attached, depending upon the activity. It also has an empowering approach that can support your overall health. Generally, it is recommended to exercise at least 150 minutes on weekly basis. However, this varies depending on a type of exercises and health benefits you aim to achieve. For example, 175 minutes of walking per week may help with depression. Moderate aerobic exercises of 120 minutes per week help with memory. 450 minutes of exercise per week significantly reduces the risk of premature death.
Once you have decided that you want to be more physically active, there are a few things you should consider.
Ask yourself whether you’d prefer being indoors or out, doing a group or individual activity, or trying a new sport. If you’re put off by sporty exercises, or feel uninspired at the thought of limiting yourself to just one activity, think outside the box and remember that going on a walk, doing housework are all physical activities.
Also, would you rather go it alone or do an activity with a friend? Social support is a great motivator, and sharing your experiences, goals and achievements will help you to keep focus and enthusiasm.
Exercise and mental health go hand in hand. However, you won’t see improvement in physical conditioning every day. Making the regular commitment to doing physical activity is an achievement in itself, and every activity session can improve your mood.