Mental Benefits of Exercising in 2021
Welcome to the Mental Benefits of Exercising!
“Exercising not only changes your body, it changes your mind, your attitude, and your mood.”
When you think of exercising, the first word that probably comes to your head is muscles. To be more specific, the muscles in your body. We all know that exercising is good for our body, that it has several health benefits and keeps us in good shape. But, what about the muscles in our mind? What about the effect exercising has on our mentality, our mindset, attitude, and outlook? Not all of us aware of these benefits, and if you’re one of them, don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place!
After 7 weeks of training, you’ve come to the final week before your marathon. Long runs, sprints, squats, sit-ups- it would be impossible to name any exercise you haven’t done. With your final week, you decide to do moderate exercises and runs. You tie your shoes, put your hair up, and start with light stretches. When you’re done, you start jogging. One foot in front of the other. One breath after the other. Keep going, your voice says. However, your body says Stop, I’m tired! Who do you listen to? Whose signals do you follow?
It’s been 7 weeks of deciding between whether to keep going or stop. You remember that during the first run of your training, you had to stop because your mind gave up so easily. But in the next run, you kept going. That’s how far you’ve gotten. That’s how much you improved. And, it’s not fair to you or your mind if you get rid of all that effort in the end. It’s not all about the strength in your legs and the stamina in your body, it’s also about the mentality, willingness, and dedication in your mind. Because of your improved mentality, your feet keep moving. Because of your willingness, you keep going. And because of your dedication, you don’t stop.
That 8-week training program was not just for the marathon you were preparing for, it was also for the race in your mind. You’re not racing against the other person to cross the finish line first, it’s about whether or not you do the best you can. You’re not competing against the other person to win, it’s about if you win over your mind telling you to slow down or stop. And in the end, it’s not the praise and applause you get even if you do beat the others, it’s about being grateful that you were able to keep going and not stop. (Although, you still get bragging rights for that haha.)
Exercising definitely is what keeps you healthy and in shape, but it also has other benefits to keep your mind healthy and strong. The physical benefits of exercising are known by many, but several people do not know about the mental benefits. In the end, it’s always going to be mind over body. So, read on!
1. Reduces stress
The words mind and body seem like two fully different concepts, however, the correlation between these two words have much significance in our lives. If you think you want to do something, you (your body) will most likely do it. That pattern is from mind to body though. But, what about the actions from body to mind? Exercising is one of those actions that if done, affects your brain.
“When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. So it stands to reason that if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, even breathing deeply can cause your body to produce endorphins. And conventional wisdom holds that a workout of low to moderate intensity makes you feel energized and healthy.” (adaa.org)
2. Increases happiness
There is obviously a similarity between less stress and happiness. So, if exercising can reduce stress, it can also increase happiness. Here’s how:
“You’ve probably heard of endorphins, right? These are hormones that are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland within the brain. Their main job is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals, but they also produce a feeling of euphoria. This is what makes you feel happier instantly, and the effects will last a good amount of time.
Endorphins are the only “feel-good” chemicals released through exercising though. Your body will also produce serotonin, norepinephrine, BDNF and dopamine, the reward chemical. All of which have huge positive benefits for the mind. The bottom line: the combination of these five chemicals will boost your mood, and have been proved to help to relieve both anxiety and depression.” (www.fitnesseducation.edu.au)
3. Improves self-confidence
By exercising, you are happier and less stressed out. By this, you are also improving your self-confidence. When you exercise, you feel a sense of accomplishment. You may think, “Wow, I burned this many calories.” or “Man, I exercised a lot today.” By finishing a workout or a walk/run, you feel a sense of pride in achieving a goal.
“Hop on the treadmill to look (and more importantly, feel) like a million bucks. On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth. How’s that for feeling the (self) love?” (www.huffpost.com)
4. Prevents cognitive decline
“It’s unpleasant, but it’s true — as we get older, our brains get a little… hazy. As aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s kill off brain cells, the noggin actually shrinks, losing many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” Alzheimer’s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45 Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.” (www.huffpost.com)
5. Boosts brainpower
“Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning.” (www.huffpost.com)
Researchers studied two elderly populations that had led different lifestyles, one sedentary and one active. Cognitive scores were profoundly influenced. Exercise positively affected executive function, spatial tasks, reaction times and quantitative skills.
So researchers asked: If the sedentary populations become active, will their cognitive scores go up? Yes, it turns out, if the exercise is aerobic. In four months, executive functions vastly improve; longer, and memory scores improve as well.brainrules.net
I know what I’m going to do before my next math test lol.
6. Increases productivity
Busy working professionals find it hard to fit exercise into their hectic schedules, but taking time for exercise actually increases mental acuity. Exercise truly feeds the brain, essential if you’re going to be more effective and efficient. When your brain is performing at full capacity, you focus better, concentrate more, and thus make smarter decisions.
More and more companies are allowing employees to take exercise at work. Big giants like Google led the way with in-office gyms and Nike have in-office yoga classes for their employees. Companies are noticing the benefits exercise has on employee productivity.
Studies of office workers who regularly exercise found that long sitting time at work was linked to a lower work productivity and decreased mental well-being. Employers have taken to implementing ‘sit less, move more’ interventions such as standing desks and offering employees time for exercise during working hours to improve work productivity.www.bbfp.com.au
7. Boosts creativity
“A new study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience shows that regular exercisers do better on tests of creativity than their more sedentary peers.
Specifically, researchers noted that regular exercise seems to be associated with improved divergent and convergent thinking, which are considered the two components of creative thinking; the former involves thinking of multiple solutions for one problem, while the latter involves thinking of one solution for a problem.
‘Exercising on a regular basis may thus act as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways,’ study researcher Lorenza Colzato, a cognitive psychology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said in a statement.”blog.brainbalancecenters.com
8. Builds discipline
To exercise, you must have discipline. And, to gain discipline, exercising is a good way to do so.
When you decide to exercise, you are deciding to stop doing something else (like watch TV) and do something good for yourself. You could choose to talk to a friend, go on social media, watch a YouTube video, but no- you decide to take the time out of your day to exercise and rejuvenate yourself!
It takes discipline to not start something useless, but addicting. It takes discipline to tire yourself out. But, most importantly, it takes discipline to choose to exercise.
9. Sharpens your memory
“Get ready to win big at Go Fish. Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning. For this reason, research has linked children’s brain development with level of physical fitness (take that, recess haters!). But exercise-based brainpower isn’t just for kids. Even if it’s not as fun as a game of Red Rover, working out can boost memory among grown-ups, too. A study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults.” (huffpost.com)
10. More energy
Of course, when you’re tired, why would you want to start working out and exercising? You most likely would want to rest, but research shows that by exercising, you can defeat fatigue and feel more energetic.
Although many studies have shown that sedentary people who start a regular exercise program experience an increase in energy levels, researchers say few studies have quantified those effects.
In this study, published in Psychological Bulletin, the researchers analyzed 70 studies on exercise and fatigue involving more than 6,800 people.
“More than 90% of the studies showed the same thing: Sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to groups that did not exercise,” says O’Connor. “It’s a very consistent effect.”
The results show that regular exercise increases energy and reduces fatigue.www.webmd.com
So the next time you’re tired, don’t go sleep on the couch, go for a walk or a light jog!
Exercise is a crucial part of life to stay not only physically healthy, but also mentally healthy. As a recap, the mental benefits of exercising includes:
- Reduces stress
- Increases happiness
- Improves self-confidence
- Prevents cognitive decline
- Boosts brainpower
- Increases productivity
- Boosts creativity
- Builds discipline
- Sharpens your memory
- More energy
In my first post on Daily Routines of Successful People, I mentioned exercising as one of those habits. While all successful people are not perfectly fit, they are definitely mentally fit.
Now, I am not telling you to go on a 10-mile run every day. Do whatever feels right to you! These include yoga, stretches, strength, cardio, running/jogging, biking, and so much more! There are plenty of gyms around, and if not, you can certainly do workouts at home! There is no excuse to not exercise, and it all depends on your willingness to improve yourself- whether that be physically, mentally or both!
Instead of sitting at home to watch TV, go on a run! Instead of being on your phone and talking to your friends, do a workout! You can work out and exercise from just 10 minutes a day to however long you desire. Be sure to stay safe and not overwork yourself!
It’s about time to buy a set of weights now! Good luck!
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