The recommended amount of exercise is about 150 minutes every week. We all know that exercise is good for the body, but it also remains one of the best ways to improve mental health. It is a significant part of the treatment regimen for those who suffer from certain mental problems, such as anxiety, ADHD, and depression, but the best thing about it is that you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. No matter your fitness level or age, you can make a difference even with modest amounts of exercise. We suggest you continue reading if you want to find out how exercise can be used as a powerful tool to feel better.
How does exercise affect our brain?
People who work out regularly find that it gives them a huge sense of well-being. They sleep better at night, feel more relaxed, have a sharper memory, feel more energetic throughout the day, and feel more positive about themselves. Some experts claim that exercise increases levels of a “happy chemical” called serotonin – a neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants. Other theories include the release of endorphins, breakdown of muscle tension (which decreases physical pain and improves sleep), interruption of cycles of negative thoughts, and improvements in self-esteem.
Exercise and cognitive decline
Many factors are known to contribute to the age-related cognitive decline. Degenerative and aging diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, kill off brain cells, the head actually shrinks and loses many important brain functions in the process. Even though unpleasant, it is true – our brains get a little “hazy” as we get older. Of course, exercise can’t cure Alzheimer’s, but it can help shore up the brain against the age-related cognitive decline (which starts after the age of 45). Working out boosts brain chemicals that support and prevent degeneration of the part of the brain in charge of learning and memory (hippocampus).
Exercise and depression
There are several reasons why exercise is a powerful depression fighter. It promotes various changes in the brain, such as reduced inflammation, neural growth, and new activity patterns (promoting feelings of well-being and calm). Exercise, as we already mentioned, releases endorphins and serotonin that make us feel good and energize our spirits. It can also serve as a time to break out of the negative-thought cycle that depression feeds on. Exercise can treat mild to moderate depression, while maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent one from relapsing.
Exercise and stress
When under stress, your muscles (especially the face, neck and shoulders ones) may be tense, you may feel muscle cramps, a pounding pulse, or a tightness in your chest. Other symptoms of long-term stress can be stomachache, heartburn, insomnia, frequent urination, or diarrhea, while the discomfort and worrying about these physical indicators can lead to even more stress. This cycle can be broken by exercising, which helps relieve the tension and relax the muscles. Once your body feels better, your mind will too, as the two are closely linked.
Exercise and memory
Physical activity can boost our ability to retain and store memories, and also our ability to learn new things. The production of cells in the hippocampus increases due to regular exercise, which boosts brain development and brain power. The brain cells get healthier, new blood vessels grow in the brain, and with more blood flow, your brain is sharper.
Exercise and self-confidence
You’ve probably felt like a million bucks after a sweaty workout session more than once. Physical fitness can lead to a positive self-image and boost self-esteem. It can quickly elevate your perception of attractiveness, regardless of your size, weight, age or gender. Exercise gives you a sense of accomplishment, makes you feel and look better, and makes you stronger. Just looking at yourself in the mirror after your workout sessions while wearing great gym outfits and compression clothing can boost your sense of self-worth and have you walk out of the gym feeling calm and content.
Thinking smarter, getting out of a cycle of negative thoughts, gaining self-confidence, and fighting cognitive decline are just some of the benefits you can gain from exercising on a regular basis. Exercise can also reduce your stress, symptoms of anxiety and depression, prevent relapses, and help improve your sleep. It makes you feel good due to the release of serotonin and endorphins that improve your mood, which can also help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, get you out in the world, and put you in touch with other people.
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