The Benefits of Physical Activity on Your Mental Health
You are probably already familiar with the physical benefits of exercise: to name a few, weight control, a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, and increased energy throughout the day. However, there are also numerous psychological benefits that are brought about by physical activity that are also invaluable.
The benefits of physical activity
It acts as a sleep aid. Even short sessions of a physical activity can help regulate your sleep patterns. An increase in body temperature can help calm the mind and allows you to fall asleep quicker. Exercise can also help regulate your circadian rhythm, which is our body’s internal clock that determines our sleep-wake cycles. If you prefer to exercise at night, you can try more energy-efficient exercises such as yoga.
It acts as a boost for your self-image and confidence. The physical benefits of a sustained exercise regimen translate into psychological ones: for instance, losing weight and increasing muscle tone will give you a boost in self-esteem and confidence. So even if an aesthetic goal is not what you’re after, it may just happen and you will begin reaping the benefits before you even realised your body has undergone significant physical changes.
It reduces anxiety. Exercise naturally relieves tension and stress due to the feel-good chemical it stimulates in the brain. The more mindful you are, the bigger the benefit. Enjoy the sensation of movement, the rhythm of your breathing or the feeling of cool air against your skin. Incorporating mindfulness into your routine can help better distract from the constant barrage of worries that is currently bothering you.
It reduces stress. Physical activity relaxes the muscles and helps release tension in your body. An increased heart rate stimulates the production of neurohormones, which improves mood but also helps you think more clearly. Exercise also requires the body’s central and sympathetic nervous systems to communicate with one another, which also contributes to the body’s ability to handle stress. When facing challenges in life, exercise provides a healthier alternative to more harmful outlets, such as alcohol and drugs. With a combination of different outlets in your arsenal, such as exercise, art and a strong support system, you can do whatever you set your mind to.
It can alleviate depression. A recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for just fifteen minutes a day (or walking for an hour) reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Research also shows that having a consistent exercise regimen can reduce the risk of relapse. This is because it promotes favourable neural growth in the brain, reduced inflammation and activity patterns that create those feelings of calm and tranquility and a general sense of well-being. Endorphins are powerful hormones secreted within your brain that also help boost your energy. At the very least, exercise serves as a distraction which allows you to momentarily escape from negative thoughts and life’s challenges.
It empowers the brain and keeps it young. Exercise helps prevent memory loss by strengthening the hippocamus, the region of the brain that controls our memory and learning. Studies also show that physical activity boosts creativity – you never know, that fifteen-minute jog could remove your frustrating writer’s block.
It is clear that the body and mind are closely linked – what benefits the body is likely to benefit the mind, so see exercise as hitting two birds with one stone!