Everyone knows that exercise helps you build muscle, lose weight, and improve your overall physical health. But did you know that it also has some incredible benefits for your mood and mental health? Studies show that regular exercise helps to curb anxiety and depression, minimize ADHD symptoms, relieve stress, improve memory, and offers a host of other positive impacts to your psychological well-being. You don’t need to be a world-class athlete to reap the rewards—setting aside even a small amount of time every week can lead to a better mood, improved relationships, and a happier and healthier life.
Stress relief is one of the largest mental health benefits of exercise. Had a rough day at work? Then put on your running shoes and take a quick jog or head to the gym to get a workout in. Exercise increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a stress hormone and neurotransmitter that helps the body regulate stress. A little bit of sweat can make you feel a lot better.
Exercise does not discriminate. People of every age and physical fitness level report that regular exercise increases their overall self-esteem and improves their self-image. People report feeling a sense of accomplishment when they reach even modest exercise goals, and an overall sense of satisfaction in their appearance.
Exercise is an effective way to counteract feelings of depression. When you exercise, endorphins are released which decreases pain, increases positivity, and creates a feeling of euphoria. You don’t need to be a gym rat to reap the benefits—as little as 30 minutes of exercise can have a profound positive impact on your mood.
Like depression, the endorphins released during exercise helps to combat feeling of anxiety. You can even supercharge the effect by adding mindfulness into your workout. Pay attention to the rhythm of your breathing or the sensation of your feet hitting the pavement as you run. This allows you to really focus on your body and become aware of the changes while you are exercising. Runners often report that the simple act of focusing on their running helps them minimize worries and alleviate feelings of persistent anxiety.
In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, taking a walk or going for a quick jog works wonders for inspiring creativity and increasing productivity. Studies show that people who make time for regular exercise have more energy, are more productive, and see a boost in creativity for up to two hours after a workout session. Next time you find yourself stuck on a project or work issue, take a breather and sneak in some physical activity. You may find that solutions will suddenly appear and problems will suddenly get solved.