There are various reasons to exercise, like staying healthy or losing weight. But did you know that exercise also helps your emotional and mental health? Exercise is a very powerful “drug” in that it does naturally what many scientists in the pharmaceutical world have been creating for decades. Below are some of the many benefits of the physiological return on exercise.
The ability of exercise to reduce mental and physical stress has been well documented. Heading to the gym or working out on your home gym equipment can have a robust release on certain stress chemicals that help the brain moderate stress. Also, when putting the body under physical stress regularly, this teaches the body how to recover and adapt to stress both physically and mentally.
Because of the body’s need to recover from exercise, your brain will make you tired earlier and help you sleep more soundly throughout the night. The human body recovers at night when we sleep; this is the most profound effect of recovery from training sessions. Without sleep, you will not progress very far in your quest for fitness. Luckily your brain has your back on this one.
Exercise can increase the release of “happy chemicals” called endorphins, which act in a similar fashion as pain medicine interacting with your brain’s neurotransmitters. Don’t worry, no addiction here. These endorphins release naturally by exercise and have been shown to reduce depression and increase feelings of “euphoria” post-workout. In addition, exercising outdoors can also give you a boost of happiness.
Many factors make this a great benefit from exercise. First off, your social skills get a “workout” leading to more confidence in and out of the gym. You will likely be more confident in the gym environment which will carry over to other aspects of your career and personal life. Lastly, you will also be improving your positive self-image and self-talk, all the while increasing the perception of your self-worth.
It has been shown that as we age, our cognitive functions tend to decline. Regular exercise at any age can affect the part of the brain that acts on memory (hippocampus) and improve its function. This is also true for our ability to learn. Through the same adaptations on the hippocampus people that exercise regularly are more likely to retain new information.
The function here is very similar to what was discussed above with endorphins. Exercise has been shown to be even more successful at reducing anxiety than a bubble bath, and on the same level as a Swedish massage. Exercise helps reduce feelings of anxiety because it not only releases endorphins, but gives your mind something else to focus on, like keeping your breathing steady.
When we exercise, our blood flow is increased, which helps carry oxygen and nutrients to our muscles and makes us more energized and alert. As stated above, with improved sleep quality comes improved energy since our bodies are getting the rest it needs. Research shows that people who work out regularly are generally more productive in both work and personal life. This is also coupled with the fact that their positive self-talk is increasing which has a great effect on the perception or feeling of being awake and full of energy. Lastly, because people exercising are also more likely to make healthy nutritional choices, they also have the perception of more energy and consume less caffeine daily.
When people start exercising with a friend or partner, they are finding quality time to spend together and keeping each other motivated. In addition, by feeling confident from exercise, people will seek out others with the same interests. Therefore, they will begin to develop and strengthen interpersonal relationships as a basic human need. Belonging to a community has a great deal of impact on mental health and success with our goals.
Exposing gym members and clients to these benefits of exercise may help increase their longevity in the gym, as well as increase the likelihood that they see results and refer friends and family. What positive emotional and mental health have you personally noticed since making exercise a part of your life?