The Connection Between Exercise and Mental Health

man in the gym looking down at a weight disc and his training shoes

Lots of people focus on exercise and going to a local gym near Longridge because they want to either lose weight (fat loss) or build muscle (bulk up). Working out is more than working your muscles, becoming tired and sculpting your new body shape though.

Research shows that regular exercise lowers the negativity of mental health, regardless of your sex, race or age (see this study for details). If you want to understand how going to the gym will benefit your mind as well as your body then here are a few points on its connection.

Exercise reduces stress levels

Exercise is effective at reducing the overall levels of stress in both your body and mind. However, if you have a problem with one particular stress hormone (cortisol) then you might find that exercise alone isn’t going to relieve it: you could need some other things like yoga, meditation or health supplements.

If you’ve felt that your mood lifts a little after your workout then there are number of reasons why. One key reason is because the body releases certain chemicals into the blood stream, called endorphins. These endorphins act as “feel good” factors on the body and some people can experience the feeling of abundance and euphoria.

Some studies have shown them to have an effect similar to morphine (the perception that pain is diminished). However, and some would say unfortunately, this activation of the receptors doesn’t have the same addiction effect like the drugs do.

If you want to read more about stress and mental health on a medical level then this article has some interesting information.

Helps you feel younger

Exercise can help to reduce cognitive decline that shows as we begin to age. As we get older, the hippocampus starts to reduce in effectiveness and size. This is an essential part of the brain that has the responsibility for learning and memory.

However, don’t let this put you off is you’re over the age of 60. Being an older adult is no excuse to stay away from working out and exercising.

By exercising, we decrease the above from happening earlier. Also, it has been proven that exercising regularly from age 25-30 can help reduce the production of certain chemicals in the brain that have a negative impact. Thus, protecting you from brain degeneration through regular, moderate exercise.

Improves your mood

Earlier, I mentioned about the body releasing endorphins and hormones through exercise. These lead to euphoria and encourage you to take a more upbeat, positive attitude towards things. This is great if you suffer from anxiety or depression.

If you don’t feel your best most of the time then actually just showing up to the gym can have you feeling in a brighter mood, and can last for hours after you leave. If you go to the gym in the afternoon then this can last into the evening.

Develop brain function

Some research discovered a link between cardiovascular exercise and aerobic workouts and the development of new brain cells and improved brain function.

There is also research showing that high-intensity workouts (HIIT) help release BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which is a protein to help improve learning and decision making, as well as improving the negative effects of a person carrying around excess weight while trying to lose it.

Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a contributing factors to a number of conditions and health outcomes. Exercising can help to lower your blood pressure over the longer term.

How does this help with your mental health?

If you’re more relaxed by having meditation on your schedule, and you’re reducing your overall weight by getting regular exercise, then you’ll find that your blood pressure will lower down into the normal range. Being in a normal blood pressure range also has a positive effect on your outlook in life.

Exercise and ADHD

Exercising regularly is one of the best solutions to reduce the symptoms of ADHD.

It does this by helping to improving memory, concentration and motivation. When we exercise, all of our serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine levels are boosted: these are the chemicals the brain releases to control focus and attention.

This means that exercise can work in similar way to popular medications for ADHD.

Improved sleep

Lots of people in the UK have trouble with sleep. Whether that’s an inability to fall asleep, waking up early or constantly waking up during the night, getting a bad night’s sleep all of the time can lead to depression and a whole host of other negative health outcomes.

Getting a great night’s sleep can put your body in a state of calmness. Exercising and working out during the day will help your body to feel tired and want to get some well-earned rest.

Boost self-esteem

Exercising in the gym is going to improve your body and physical appearance, as well as make you feel good. Those things combined help to boost your self-esteem.

When you look at yourself in the mirror and are proud about the way you look, that is self-esteem. When you’re not bothered if anyone is watching when you’re dancing, that is self-esteem.

Some studies have found that no matter what age, sex or race you are, regular exercise in most forms helps to improve your self worth and self-esteem.

 

Exercise, no matter where you are in life, is an important tool to use a few times a week to help you live your life to the fullest. Exercising can improve your cognitive brain function and boost your positive outlook on life: which leads to improved mental health.

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