The Many Benefits of Exercise
Often times, the main focus of exercising is how it makes a person look. Media platforms are saturated with information about which workouts will make you loose weight the fastest or which workouts are best for targeting certain parts of the body. However, the true focus should be on how exercising makes you feel, and all the health benefits that are associated with an active lifestyle. Exercising regularly protects and improves brain function, promotes a healthy immune system, enhances sleep, leads to healthier aging, and it can even help lower your risk of developing a chronic disease. Best of all, exercise improves your mental health.
How Exercise Improves Mental Health
Even the smallest amount of physical exercise, such as a 30 minute walk, can lead to a better mood. This is because when you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins then interact with the receptors in your brain to reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a happy feeling within your body that are accompanied by a more positive outlook on life. According to Psychology Today, when you are focusing on exercising, you are giving yourself a break from any negative thoughts or damaging self-talk. Many exercises also get you outside or interacting with others, both of which are known to improve your mood and overall health.
In addition, Psychology Today cites recent studies that show exercise may be the solution to treating depression and anxiety, and could help manage the symptoms of dementia and schizophrenia. This is because physical activity directly improves brain function through better blood supply and improved delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Specifically relating to mental health, is the hippocampus since this part of the brain is involved with memory, emotion regulation, and learning. Many mental health conditions are associated with reduced neurogenesis in the hippocampus. There is increasing evidence showing that exercise leads to the creation of new hippocampal neurons, or neurogenesis, which can improve your mental health possibly even better than medications.
How Much Should You Exercise?
The American Heart Association recommends that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes vigorous aerobic activity per week. For the best mental health health benefits, Psychology Today recommends three or more 45-60 minute sessions per week of aerobic exercise or resistance training. Psychiatrist Madhukar Trivedi has seen this recommendation treat even chronic depression. Keep in mind that long term effects tend to be noticed after about four weeks, which incidentally is how long neurogenesis takes, but you will notice an instantly improved mood after each workout.
Before committing to any new workout routine, it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor first. For more information, click here!