Medical science has proven a link
between Exercise & good Mental Health
13 Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise
as published in the Huffingtonpost Oct 13 2015
Many people hit the gym or pound the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course, get a rockin’ bod, but working out has above-the-neck benefits, too. For the past decade or so, scientists have pondered how exercising can boost brain function. Regardless of age or fitness level (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.
1. Reduce Stress
Rough day at the office? Take a walk or head to the gym for a quick workout. One of the most
common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain's response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty -- working out can reduce stress and boost the body's ability to deal with existing mental tension. Win-win!
2. Boost Happy Chemicals
Slogging through a few miles on the ‘mill can be tough, but it's worth the effort! Exercise
releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. For this reason, docs recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety (or those who are just feeling blue) pencil in plenty of gym time. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Don't worry if you're not exactly the gym rat type -- getting a happy buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood.
3. Improve Self-Confidence
Hop on the treadmill to look (and more importantly, feel) like a million bucks. On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person's perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth. How's that for feeling the (self) love?
4. Enjoy The Great Outdoors
For an extra boost of self-love, take that workout outside. Exercising in the great outdoors can
increase self-esteem even more. Find an outdoor workout that fits your style, whether it's rock-climbing, hiking, renting a canoe or just taking a jog in the park. Plus, all that Vitamin D acquired from soaking up the sun (while wearing sunscreen, of course!) can lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Why book a spa day when a little fresh air and sunshine (and exercise) can work wonders for self-confidence and happiness?
5. Prevent Cognitive Decline
It's unpleasant, but it's true -- as we get older, our brains get a little... hazy. As aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's kill off brain cells, the noggin actually shrinks, losing many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” Alzheimer's, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45 Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of thehippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.
6. Alleviate Anxiety
Quick Q&A: Which is better at relieving anxiety -- a warm bubble bath or a 20-minute jog? You might be surprised at the answer. The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Hopping on the track or treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise (intervals, anyone?) can reduce anxiety sensitivity. And we thought intervals were just a good way to burn calories!
7. Boost Brainpower
Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have
shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known asBDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning. Smarty (spandex) pants, indeed.
8. Sharpen Memory
Get ready to win big at Go Fish. Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in hippocampusresponsible for memory and learning. For this reason, research has linked children'sbrain development with level of physical fitness (take that, recess haters!). But exercise-based brainpower isn't just for kids. Even if it's not as fun as a game of Red Rover, working out can boost memory among grown-ups, too. A study showed thatrunning sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults.
9. Help Control Addiction
The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure, be that exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol (and more rarely, food and sex). On the bright side, exercise can help in addiction recovery. Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug oralcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings (at least in the short term). Working out when on the wagon has other benefits, too. Alcohol abuse disrupts many body processes, including circadian rhythms. As a result, alcoholics find they can't fall asleep (or stay asleep) without drinking. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, helping people hit the hay at the right time.
10. Increase Relaxation
11. Get More Done
Feeling uninspired in the cubicle? The solution might be just a short walk or jog away. Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body'scircadian rhythms.
12. Tap Into Creativity
Most people end a tough workout with a hot shower, but maybe we should be breaking out the colored pencils instead. A heart-pumping gym session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards. Supercharge post-workout inspiration by exercising outdoors and interacting with nature (see benefit #4). Next time you need a burst of creative thinking, hit the trails for a long walk or run to refresh the body and the brain at the same time.
13. Inspire Others
Working out can have positive effects far beyond the gym (and beach season). Gaining self-confidence, getting out of a funk, and even thinking smarter are some of the motivations to take time for exercise on a regular basis.
Whether it's a pick-up game of soccer, a group class at the gym, or just a run with a friend, exercise rarely happens in a bubble. And that's good news for all of us. Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy. Pin it to inspiration or good old-fashioned competition, nobody wants to let the other person down. In fact, being part of a team is so powerful that it can actuallyraise athletes’ tolerances for pain. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and get moving!
Video "The Benefits of Regular Physical Activity"
Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms Depression symptoms often improve with exercise. Here are some realistic tips to help you get started and stay motivated. By Mayo Clinic Staff
When you have anxiety or depression, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference.Exercise helps prevent and improve a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. Research on anxiety, depression and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help reduce anxiety and improve mood.The links between anxiety, depression and exercise aren't entirely clear — but working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of anxiety or depression and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep anxiety and depression from coming back once you're feeling better.
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How does exercise help depression and anxiety?
Regular exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:
Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids)
Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression, Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects
Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too. It can help you:
Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.
Video "How Exercise Rewires your Brain"Is a structured exercise program the only option?Some research shows that physical activity such as regular walking — not just formal exercise programs — may help improve mood. Physical activity and exercise are not the same thing, but both are beneficial to your health.Physical activity is any activity that contracts muscles and expends energy and can include work or household or leisure activities.Exercise is a planned, structured and repetitive body movement done to improve or maintain physical fitness.The word "exercise" may make you think of running laps around the gym. But exercise includes a wide range of activities that boost your activity level to help you feel better.Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can physical activity such as gardening, washing your car, walking around the block or engaging in other less intense activities. Any physical activity that gets you off the couch and moving can help improve your mood.You don't have to do all your exercise or other physical activity at once. Broaden how you think of exercise and find ways to add small amounts of physical activity throughout your day. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little farther away from work to fit in a short walk. Or, if you live close to your job, consider biking to work.
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Mental Health Advocacy Inc.