Nobody can deny that exercise is great for your body. It builds muscles, burns fat, strengthens vital organs and helps circulation; but what about the benefits that exercise has on your mind? There are various ways that the mind is enhanced during both light and strenuous exercise, so we’ve put together some of the mental benefits of exercise for you.
First and foremost, exercise makes you feel good. Not just about yourself for having the willpower to do it instead of lying in your warm, comfy bed but also because it releases a cocktail of hormones that stay in your system for some time after you finish. Endorphines are one example and these are the hormones we also feel when we experience happiness, meaning that exercise literally makes us happy. Patients with depression often respond well to a strict regular exercise regime, followed by a shower which alternates between hot and cold water every 2 minutes to stimulate the release of noradrenaline (another blues-beating hormone).
The mental benefits of exercise are also caused by increased blood flow to the brain. Any organ that experiences high blood flow during exercise will benefit from the extra oxygen it receives and because of this it works to the best of its ability for a short time afterwards. You might find you are more productive in the few hours after exercise, particularly at work if you go for a run or go to the gym during your lunch break. Just compare yourself with those who spend their lunch break eating big meals and warm drinks; while they’re snoozing at their desk you are up and at em.
Speaking of sleep, you might notice that when you exercise during the day you sleep much better at night. Everyone knows that getting a good night’s sleep is great for your mental health and so the evidence for the mental benefits of exercise is clear here. During sleep your brain makes sense of what has happened during the day, but also repairs itself so it can function to the best of its ability. If you never push your body so that it is tired at night, you’ll sleep lightly and irregularly, never giving your brain time to fall into the deep sleep that it needs.
There are, of course, specific forms of physical exercise which either focus on the mind, or use it as a core muscle; namely meditation. Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates also use the mind and deep forms of concentration in order to exercise properly, and these are great for promoting calm and relaxation. One study done of meditation showed that the brain structure actually altered when people performed regular meditation and that their new brain structure was linked to a longer life span.
The mental benefits of exercise are many and various, which is much the same as forms of exercise. You could stimulate the social part of your brain as well as the mental by taking part in group sports, or alternatively gorge yourself in beautiful scenery and solitude on a long country walk or run. Whichever exercise you choose to take part in, it’s guaranteed hat you will experience the mental benefits of exercise.