We’ve all heard that exercise is good for us—working out strengthens our hearts and lungs, and helps prevent numerous diseases. That’s why so many of us like to make New Year’s resolutions to move more, knowing it will make us healthier and live longer. But, debatably, more importantly, exercise can also boost your mood, improve your sleep, and help you deal with depression, anxiety, stress, and so much more!
Overall, people who are physically active are happier and more satisfied with their lives. They have a stronger sense of purpose and experience more gratitude, love, and hope. They feel more connected to their communities and are less likely to suffer from loneliness or become depressed. Even if you’re not suffering from a mental health problem, regular physical activity can still offer a welcome boost to your mood, outlook, and mental well-being.
When you exercise, you provide a low-dose jolt to the brain’s reward centers—the system of the brain that helps you anticipate pleasure, feel motivated, and maintain hope. Over time, regular exercise remodels the reward system, leading to higher circulating levels of dopamine and more available dopamine receptors. In this way, exercise can both relieve depression and expand your capacity for joy.
In addition, exercise can help provide:
Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp! Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
Higher self-esteem. When working out becomes a habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel stronger and leaner. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by reaching exercise goals (even small ones) you’ll feel a sense of achievement.
Better sleep. Even if you don't have time for a full workout, even ten minutes of exercise can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or stretching can help promote sleep.
More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more energy on a day-to-day basis.
Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you build resilience and cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.
The physical benefits of exercise are very well known, and know that you know there are benefits to your mental health too - what are you waiting for?! Let's hit the gym and get moving!
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