While it is common knowledge that exercise is very important to our physical health, not everyone is aware of how integral it is in terms of improving our mental wellbeing. Exercise keeps the body in shape and is beneficial to many of our internal functions such as our immune and circulatory systems. However, it can also reduce stress, increase our concentration and focus and improve our moods. What’s more, it can even protect the mind from disease, as physical activity has been found to be ideal for preventing and alleviating symptoms related to mental disorders.
Many studies that have investigated physical activity and mental health have found that the mental benefits of exercise help to improve brain function. To begin with, when a person engages in a physical work out they increase blood flow to the brain. In order to run at its best, this vital and complex organ needs an extensive quantity of glucose and oxygen. Steady, insufficient blood flow can cause the brain to become sluggish and can contribute to a decline in mental health, putting certain people at risk for health conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Physical activity and mental health research has also discovered that exercise has a positive effect on neurotransmitters. Exercising can assist the body in the production of greater levels of diverse brain chemicals that are essential for memory, brain function and improving mood. In addition, physical activity boosts endorphins which reduces pain and also affects mood. Furthermore, activity increases acetylcholine. This is significant because acetylcholine supports the voluntary movement of muscles, memory and mental processing.
More specifically in regard to depression, some benefits of physical activity and mental health include:
- Raising body temperature – can have a calming effect.
- Release of endorphins and neurotransmitters – also known as “feel-good brain chemicals” they can positively impact mood.
- Decreasing chemicals in the immune system – some chemicals in our body can make certain symptoms of depression worse.
- Distracts your mind from worries – when you are focused on your work out you are less likely to think negative thoughts that feed your anxieties and stress.
- Improve self-confidence – You can give your self-confidence and self-esteem a boost by meeting exercise goals, losing excess weight and getting your body in shape, bettering your self-image.
There’s no question that physical activity and mental health go hand in hand. Since this is the case, it’s important that you engage in regular daily exercise to ensure you get your blood flowing to revitalize your brain. If you aren’t sure what exercises will provide you with the best results, consult with your doctor.