Physical exercise is often recommended as a way of maintaining an excellent state of health. However, it is important to be aware of the fact that physical activity is beneficial not only for the body but also for the mind. Your brain has a lot to gain from constant physical exercise, as it forms new connections and improves its overall performance. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that physical exercise can prevent cognitive decline and other changes associated with neurodegenerative conditions (Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia). It is enough to exercise only half an hour each day and improve your brain health. Keep on reading and discover additional health benefits of exercise for the mind.
#1 Stress Reduction
If you are looking for a great way to relieve some of the stress in your life, you should definitely consider engaging in physical exercise on a regular basis. Physical activity has been known to reduce stress, no matter in which form it is practiced. You can practice your favorite sport, go to the gym or simply go for a walk. All of these physical activities will help you clear your head and enjoy the many positive benefits of stress relief.
Chronic stress is associated with a wide range of medical conditions, both mental and physical. Physical exercise can keep those conditions at a safe distance, allowing you to feel better overall. When we are physically active, our brain releases endorphins these are responsible for an improved mood but also for increasing our resilience to stress.
Physical exercise can be useful in preventing stress as well. If you know that you will have a rough day ahead, it is recommended to engage in some form of physical activity. This will help you battle that existent stress, feeling more resilient and definitely prepared to handle any challenges that might come across.
With the amount of stress in your life being reduced, you will be able to enjoy things from a different perspective. Moreover, physical exercise will prevent you from obsessing on certain daily aspects this, in turn, is known to reinforce the vicious cycle of chronic stress.
#2 Happiness Hormones
A lot of people suffer from anxiety, depression and mood disorders the reason for all these manifestations has to do with the reduced release of happiness hormones at the level of the brain (serotonin, dopamine). When we engage in physical exercise, this might seem a little bit difficult at first but, in the end, it will be all worth it. This is because the brain will be stimulated to release these happiness hormones on a regular basis, allowing us to feel happier and more at peace with ourselves.
The release of endorphins also created a feeling of euphoria, which will make us feel less anxious and/or depressed. In fact, physical exercise is recommended as a form of treatment for those who are suffering from mood disorders. Studies have confirmed that physical activity can help people with depression and anxiety, being just as effective as antidepressants (but without any side-effects to worry about).
Do not worry if you are not instantly attracted to physical exercise. Most people who lead a sedentary lifestyle have difficulties returning to a more active state; however, you need to pursue this objective and engage in physical exercise on a regular basis. As already stated, you can engage in any form of physical activity you may want what matters is that you are active and working for you and your brain health.
Just a quick look at a professional athlete will tell you that he/she is filled with self-confidence. This is because professional athletes have a high level of fitness, which in turn has a positive effect on their self-esteem and level of confidence. So, if you are looking for a way to feel better about yourself, you need to engage in physical exercise. Even half an hour spent on the treadmill will help you feel better starting with the fact that you will develop a lean figure, which will have a positive effect on your self-image.
When people are not satisfied with their physical image, this can have a negative impact on their mental health. Feelings of depression and anxiety are common in those who have self-confidence issues. Well, with physical exercise, you can solve such matters in an instant. It does not matter which form of exercise you prefer, as long as you are active and working to improve your image. Physical exercise can help you re-discover your self-worth and create a positive image, which will be beneficial for your mental health. You just have to give it a try and wait to see the results.
#4 More time spent in nature
We live in the age of technology and this has brought a number of advantages to our daily lives. However, at the same time, we are spending less and less time in the open outdoors. Our brain needs fresh air and nature, which we can easily obtain by engaging in physical exercise outside. When we engage in physical activities such as rock climbing, canoeing or hiking, we are actually boosting our levels of self confidence and create a positive image.
The brain responds to the time spent in nature in a great manner, releasing happiness hormones. Regardless of the physical activity that you prefer, it is important to go out there and enjoy yourself. When you exercise outside, you are also taking in a lot of vitamin D this is another advantage to consider, as the vitamin D deficiency has been associated with feelings of depression and anxiety. Fresh air, sunshine and physical exercise these are the three elements for a perfect day spent in nature.
You can also take things from another perspective. Technology has made it very difficult for us to disconnect. We constantly spend time connected to our phones, tablets and other technological devices. When we go out and spend time in nature, being physically active at the same time, we are finally able to disconnect. This will give our brain the much-needed pause, which is more than beneficial for the overall mental health and cognitive performance.
#5 Prevention of cognitive decline
The number of people who are diagnosed with cognitive decline is on the rise; in fact, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are supposed to be the mental health problems of the century. The older we get, the more our brain suffers from cognitive decline, with its overall performance being affected. Recently, it was discovered that regular physical exercise could have a beneficial effect on the prevention of cognitive decline; in the future, scientists are hoping to improve the prognosis of neurodegenerative conditions using physical activity in some form or another.
Regular physical exercise can improve the overall functioning of the brain, this being the primary reason for which it is recommended in those who suffer from cognitive decline. It is true that it cannot cure the actual condition, but it can keep the changes in the brain at a safe distance for a longer period of time (or at least reduce their intensity and/or frequency). It is also important to note that physical exercise has a positive effect on the functioning of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning (it prevents its degeneration as well).
The next time you think about skipping your session at the gym, consider the obvious benefits it has to offer. Dementia is accompanied by subtle changes, which many of us are unable to detect. Instead of transforming yourself into a detective, it is a far better idea to get active and work against cognitive decline.
#6 Anxiety Relief
Anxiety is a mental health problem which affects more and more people each year, regardless of their age, gender and occupation. In fact, it has become increasingly connected with the appearance of male sexual disorders when men suffer from extreme anxiety, their sexual performance is also affected. Physical exercise can provide relief from the anxiety experienced on a regular basis, allowing one to enjoy an improved sexual performance and not only.
We all have our methods for relieving some of the anxiety experienced, including taking a bubble bath, watching our favorite movie or going out with friends. However, it has recently been established that physical exercise is an excellent method for relieving anxiety this has to do of course with the release of endorphins and other beneficial substances, which are known to have a calming effect on the mind. So, you see, when are physically active, you are not only burning calories but you are also calming down an overly active mind.
#7 Better brain performance
The brain is like the muscles, requiring regular training in order to stay harp. However, recent studies have demonstrated that physical exercise can also increase brain performance this is especially true for cardio workouts or any kind of physical exercise that increases cardiovascular resistance. So, if you are looking for a way to become smarter, all you have to do is engage in physical activity on a regular basis.
By practicing your favorite sport on a daily basis, you will actually stimulate the brain to form new cells. This process is known as neurogenesis and it represents the basis for an improved cognitive performance. Moreover, physical exercise can strengthen the connections between the different brain cells and ensure the proper functioning of brain synapses. Those who train their bodies regularly also benefit from an increase level of brain-derived proteins; these help the brain to think better, accumulate more information and take better decisions. You are basically giving your brain a lot of power, by engaging in physical activity and working up a sweat. Who would have thought?
#8 Better Memory
When it comes to improving our memory, we are often recommended to give puzzles and brain teasers a try. While these are quite effective, it is important to note that physical exercise has similar benefits to offer. In fact, regular physical activity has been known to boost memory and help one accumulate new information. With regard to cognitive degeneration and memory loss, it might be one of the most important weapons against medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
As it was already mentioned above, physical exercise is quite beneficial for the health of the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memorizing new information. Physical exercise can support the proper functioning of the hippocampus and, at the same time, it can prevent its degeneration.
Studies performed on children have confirmed the connection between physical exercise and the accumulation of new information. The more active children are, the better their memory is going to be. In fact, children who are physically active also present an excellent brain development.
Adults have similar benefits to gain from physical exercise, especially since they present a certain risk for memory loss. Even one does not present any signs of memory problems and/or cognitive decline, physical exercise is still recommended to be performed on a regular basis. This can keep the brain young and capable of accumulating new information; at the same time, physical exercise has been known to increase the ability of the brain for learning new things. Even the vocabulary retention is improved when adults engage in regular physical activity, hence another benefit to consider.
These are some of the top benefits to consider when it comes to physical exercise and mental health. As you have seen, physical exercise can help the brain to improve its overall performance and keep cognitive decline at a safe distance. At the same time, it works to improve the memory and learning abilities of the brain. From a different perspective, physical exercise can be beneficial for those who suffer from chronic stress, anxiety or depression it stimulates the release of endorphins and happiness hormones, improving the overall mood and increasing the resilience to daily stress.
Ben Arnold is a freelance writer and health advisor. He also does PR for Consumer Health Digest and Performance Insiders. In his free time, he loves to read books and enjoy soft music. You can Follow him on Facebook and Linked-In.