12 Ways Exercise Helps Mental Health

Updated on September 6, 2019
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Many people have heard that exercise will help them clear their mind and focus better on their work. This is because exercise has major benefits on someone's mental health. Going for a run, a swim, or heading to the gym can do wonders not only for physical health but also for someone's stress levels as well. There are many different ways that exercise can benefit mental health and several of them are summarized below.

1. Enjoy the Fresh Air

One of the first benefits of exercise is that it gets people outside to enjoy the fresh air. While not everyone is going to go outside to go for a run or a bike ride, everyone who exercises has to at least step outside to get in the car. This means that people are going to get some fresh air which is going to help clear the lungs and wake people up just a little bit more before they hit the gym or the road.

2. Improve Someone's Confidence

Everyone who goes for a run or lifts weights regularly knows the feeling of setting a new personal best. This could be a new personal record in the mile, a new maximum lift on the bench press, or a new time in the pool. When someone has done something they have never done before, they are filled with a new sense of confidence. This confidence translates into other areas of someone's life and helps to improve their outlook. This provides a much-needed confidence boost.

3. It Boosts Self-Esteem

In addition to a boost in confidence, exercise also boosts someone's self-esteem. This is the way the people see themselves. Most people have seen that individual who is flexing in the mirror trying to see if they look a little bit bigger today than they did yesterday. Well, this might be taking it a little bit too far, everyone needs to have positive self-esteem. This will help give people the ability to try new things, take chances in life, and explore things that they haven't done before. Exercise can boost self-esteem and significantly improve this aspect of mental health.

4. Releases Endorphins

When people exercise, they release chemicals called endorphins into their body. Most people have heard of something called a "runner's high." This is the feeling that people enjoy after a long distance run when they suddenly stop at the end. This runners high comes from the release of endorphins. These endorphins significantly improve someone's mood, altering their mental health for the positive. People who were in a bad mood before may suddenly be in a good mood after exercising.

5. Improve Stress

Exercise can also improve someone's stress levels. Many people have seen those individuals at the gym who look like they are taking their frustration out on something. While this may not always be the reason that people should go to the gym, it is one positive aspect of exercising. Being able to channel that frustration into something healthy like exercise will help improve life in general.

6. Prevent the Loss of Mental Function

Research has demonstrated that people who exercise regularly can help slow the decline of cognitive function in the later years of life. This is because people who exercise are focused on something specific. They are also constantly thinking in their head about how many repetitions they have done, their split on the last mile, or what their new personal best might be. These mental gymnastics while working out helps to keep the mind sharp and can preserve mental function for the later years.

7. Improve Focus Levels

Those who exercise regularly understand the feeling of suddenly being able to focus significantly better after the workout is done. This is because exercise helps to improve focus levels. And someone exercises, they gain an increased sense of clarity regarding what has to be done. This allows them to focus on their to do list and complete it efficiently after a workout.

8. Release Anxiety

Many people struggle with anxiety. Some people have generalized anxiety while other individuals may only feel anxious in certain situations. Regardless, exercise gives people the ability to focus their brain power on something specific. Situations that make people feel anxious are often those where people don't know what to do. While exercising, people often come up with a solution to their problems. This helps people relieve their anxiety and their mental health.

9. Help with Memory Retention

Many people focus on something such as song lyrics or a TV show to help them through their workout. Trying to remember these TV shows are song lyrics is an exercise in memory. Perhaps this is why research has demonstrated that those who exercise regularly are able to preserve their memories down the road. This is a direct benefit of exercise on mental health.

10. Allows for Relaxation

This might seem counterintuitive because most people think exercise is the direct opposite of relaxation. On the other hand, many people feel more relaxed immediately after they exercise. The feeling of pushing the muscles to the limit, then suddenly releasing them, creates a nice feeling of calm and relaxation once the workout is done. This can be significantly improved for those who take a hot shower or a hot bath after exercising. This mode of relaxation can significantly improve someone's mental health.

11. Improve Efficiency

Individuals who exercise regularly often find that their to do list suddenly becomes easier wants to exercise. While working out, people often find the ways to most efficiently complete the tasks on their to do list. Exercise improves mental health by helping people become more efficient on the other side of their workout.

12. Increase Overall Happiness

Those endorphins from earlier actually make people happy. When people exercise, they release these endorphins which trigger serotonin and improve people's mood. Perhaps the largest benefit of exercise on mental health is that it improves someone's overall level of happiness. Why not exercise regularly and take advantage of this?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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