5 Ways Working Out Improves Mental Health
One of the best ways to keep our minds healthy and fit is exercise. Working out regularly not only helps keep us in good physical health, but it plays a vital role in maintaining our mental health as well. Here are six ways exercising can help improve our overall mental well-being.
Stress is largely measured by levels of the stress chemical cortisol in the brain. When we experience stress, the spikes in cortisol trigger our sympathetic nervous system, activating the fight-or-flight autonomic response. However, prolonged stress never allows our parasympathetic nervous system to counter this response. Exercise helps reduce cortisol levels in our brain, allowing our body to rest and recover from the system overload our stress response created.
Working out releases a ton of feel-good chemicals in our brain. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin all work to elevate our mood and reduce the brain’s response to stress. Exercise also releases endorphins, which work to alleviate physical pain but also produce an elevated sense of overall well-being. And the effects last up to twenty or thirty minutes after a workout session.
Sleep is when our brain is able to rest and recover from the stress of our day. But getting high-quality sleep can be a struggle as cortisol works to minimize the production and release of melatonin, a necessary component to falling and staying asleep. Exercise helps lower the overall cortisol levels in our brain, but it also works to prime our body for sleep in other ways. Our core temperature rises and then falls, which regulates our body’s sleep-wake cycle. This means regular exercise helps us fall asleep faster and stay in deep sleep longer, all of which works to improve our mental health.
Regular exercise stimulates new brain cell growth, improving overall brain functionality. But recent studies show that regular aerobic exercise, in particular, increases cell production in the hippocampus which boosts learning and memory. Exercising moderately for thirty minutes a day showed immediate improvement in recall tests. Even more exciting, this improvement extended into long-term memory for areas individuals were studying and their overall recall and retention abilities showed marked improvement as well.
Helps blood circulation
Exercise gets our heart pumping, increases our oxygen intake, and increases our blood flow. All of this works to bring our muscles, especially our brain, increased oxygen levels, and nutrients. Increased blood flow also helps maintain arterial health, ensuring that blood flow occurs at optimal levels, even when we’re resting. This improvement of oxygen levels helps our overall cognitive functionality, helping us think faster and make better decisions.
Exercising for thirty minutes a day has numerous benefits for our body and brain. It can help relieve stress, improve overall brain function, help us get better sleep, and more. There are a ton of great exercise routines to fit every schedule and health needs, but always speak with a health practitioner to ensure the right fit. Making exercise part of our daily routine is a fantastic way to take care of our bodies and brains as we age, providing a boost to our mental well-being right away.