You probably know that exercise works wonders for your physical health, but do you ever consider the plethora of other reasons to exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss or burning calories? In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month coming to a close, we wanted to highlight 3 amazing mental health-related benefits that come with regularly moving your body.
Exercise reduces stress & boosts your mood
You’ve probably heard of the term “runner’s high”. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which are a type of neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the body that carry and communicate different signals from cell to cell. Endorphins in particular tell your brain to release stress and feel happy!
Physical activity increases the production of these mood-boosting endorphins to help relieve any stress or anxiety. Even just going for a walk, practicing yoga, or doing some gardening is sufficient — it doesn’t have to be anything high intensity or strenuous for you to reap the benefits.
Exercise also improves sleep quality which improves your body’s overall response to stress. Stress and sleep are inherently interconnected. You often lose sleep when you’re consumed with stressful or anxious thoughts, but at the same time, not getting enough sleep can cause you to feel more stressed. Better sleep means you’ll be better equipped to handle any stress that the day throws at you.
Exercise helps build confidence
No matter what type of exercise you’re into, it probably involves setting and achieving goals. Enjoy yoga? You may be working towards a certain pose, or becoming more flexible. Love running? You might be trying to beat either your fastest time or your longest distance. Is strength training your go-to? Chances are you’re aiming to increase your weight or number of reps of any given exercise. If you’re someone who exercises regularly, you know there’s no greater feeling than reaching that next milestone.
When you see improvements in your own abilities, no matter how big or small, you get a huge sense of accomplishment. You learn that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. You learn to persevere through challenges and to not give up when faced with something difficult. You really start to believe that you can. This self confidence will translate into and positively affect all other areas of your life: work, school, relationships, and everywhere in between. You’ll become a more determined, resilient person overall!
Exercise is great for the brain & cognitive health
Exercise promotes increased blood flow to the brain. This allows the brain access to more oxygen and nutrients, resulting in improved cognitive function. It’s no coincidence that those who opt for morning workouts claim to feel sharper and more alert throughout their day. Exercise literally boosts your ability to focus, your memory, and your energy levels. Making exercise a priority can make you more efficient at work or even just when it comes to completing daily tasks.
Studies have also shown that regular physical activity can actually cause certain parts of the brain that are associated with memory and thinking skills to become larger! In a time when so many people have fallen victim to a sedentary lifestyle and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s are on the rise, the protective effects of exercise on the brain are reason enough to prioritize regular movement.
Ultimately, exercise is just as beneficial for the brain as it is for the body. Staying physically active lowers your risk of disease, protects brain function, improves energy levels and thinking skills, reduces stress and anxiety, boosts mood, and helps you become a more confident person. Support your mind and body with regular exercise — you won’t regret it.
Need some help getting started? No problem! We know that taking the first step towards a more active lifestyle is often the hardest part. This is why FreshTalk Wellness offers a two-week Get Moving Team Challenge that allows you to commit to moving your body in some way or form everyday for two weeks. You’ll be able to hold yourself and your team members accountable through motivational internal communications, progress tracking links, and a participation leaderboard. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.