As soon as exercise becomes part of your regular daily routine, you’ll start to notice that you’re actually looking forward to your workouts — when at one point, you may have dreaded them. Exercise offers countless health benefits that go above and beyond just the physical. Exercise can manipulate and boost your mental health by way of relieving stress and releasing feel-good hormones and chemicals, such as endorphins.
Here are five ways exercise has been found to boost the state of your mental health, in addition to helping you lose weight.
1. Exercise reverses stress
Exercising for between 20 and 30 minutes per day can increase your brain’s levels of happy, soothing, and feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. A 2010 study even shows that exercise may actually be able to reverse the effects that stress has on aging — in turn, reversing the overall aging process. Better yet, exercise restricts blood flow to the areas of our brains that cause us to think about and relive stressful thoughts and moments.
2. Exercise lifts depression
Who needs antidepressants when you can exercise? Research shows that engaging in intense, sweat-inducing physical activity can reduce symptoms of depression just as effectively, if not more so, than antidepressants. Exercise has the ability to stimulate the growth of neurons that reside in the parts of our brains that have been damaged by depression. So instead of resorting to eating junk food or engaging in other behaviors harmful to health, head to the gym instead.
3. Exercise improves self-esteem
Conquering even the smallest fitness milestones can result in a major surge of self-esteem and body image — even if you’re not seeing physical changes right away. Being able to run a bit faster, lift heavier weights, or do a few extra push-ups can make you feel incredible about yourself and about your progress.
4. Exercise makes you feel happier
The more intense your workouts are, the happier and more euphoric you’ll feel afterward. Interval training is often the best type of exercise you can do to achieve those bursts of energy and happiness. Do as many reps as you can, or run, swim, or bike as fast as you can for between 30 and 45 seconds at a time to experiencing a lasting feeling of euphoria throughout the day.
5. Exercise may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease
According to the Alzheimer’s Research Center, exercising regularly is one of the best ways to combat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise has been shown to protect the hippocampus, which is responsible for controlling memory and spatial navigation, and is one of the first sections of the brain to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
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