Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Regular exercise is one of the best ways to boost serotonin levels, which are responsible for boosting your mood, appetite, and sleep cycle. Exercising can also help balance your body’s release of stress hormones, including adrenaline, which is essential in the fight-or-flight response but can be harmful if too much is released. In addition, the mental focus on body movement helps you avoid worrying thoughts. Finally, meeting goals and achieving them will help improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Exercise improves mood

Exercising can do wonders for your mood. Even a 10-minute walk can do wonders. The good news is that walking is fun! You can even choose to take part in high-intensity interval training classes or periodic group hikes and bike rides. While walking can be the best form of exercise, jogging and running have more serious side effects for your body and joints. However, if you enjoy these forms of exercise, they can also do wonders for your mood.

Exercise reduces stress

Almost any type of physical activity can reduce stress levels. From weight lifting to activities with resistance bands, almost any form of exercise is good for mental health. A study from 1998 tested the time-out hypothesis for exercise and anxiety among college-aged women. Participants reported lower anxiety levels after exercising. The benefits of physical activity extend beyond mental health. The Mayo Clinic offers free information on mental health, including ways to reduce stress through various physical activities.

Exercise improves memory

Researchers from the University of California found that exercise can boost the long-term memory of participants. The brain processes exercise-induced proteins that trigger brain cell growth. A protein called cathepsin B travels to the brain to stimulate nerve cell growth in the hippocampus. Regular exercise has been proven to improve the memory of those who practice it. Exercise has been shown to improve both short-term and long-term recall of motor skills.

Exercise improves self-efficacy

Research has shown that physical activity improves self-efficacy for mental well-being. However, researchers are unsure whether self-efficacy can explain the association between physical activity and resilience to stress. To investigate this, they conducted an experiment involving a small sample of people and two different interventions. Participants in both groups experienced increases in self-efficacy when exercising. Self-efficacy is a construct of your past successes and is built by putting yourself in low-stake situations where you are likely to succeed. Setting you small goals and gradually increasing them is a great way to build confidence and self-efficacy. For example, Skylar started out walking for 15 minutes but gradually increased his time until he began to enjoy long walks and more challenging HIIT workouts.

Exercise boosts brain-derived neurotropic factor

Regular physical exercise may help increase brain-derived neurotropic factor, also known as BDNF. The release of this neurotropic factor is associated with brain cell growth, which bolsters the release of dopamine, a chemical that is crucial for motivation and learning. Running regularly also raises dopamine levels in the brain, possibly preventing damage to nerve cells. Previous studies have linked this dopamine increase to enhanced memory.

Exercise improves the quality of life

Physical activity is important for overall well-being. It increases endorphins, a chemical responsible for a ‘feel-good’ effect after exerting physical effort. Regular exercise also improves muscle function, increases blood flow to the brain, and improves cognitive functioning in older adults. Exercise also offers opportunities for socialization, and it can improve mood and energy levels. However, it is important to speak to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Exercise counters the side effects of antidepressants

Exercise is a great way to manage depression and is even beneficial for people taking antidepressants, including Lexapro. Exercise has several benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving mood, and easing side effects. However, it can be difficult to begin an exercise regimen while taking antidepressants. If you’re unsure whether exercise is safe while taking Lexapro, consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program.

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