Most of us know about the physical effects of exercise. We know that it’s good for your heart. We have heard about how it can help ward off diabetes and weight…of course you can lose weight from regular exercise.
But how many of us think about the mental effects of exercise? You might have heard people mention that they feel happier when they exercise, but this is just a placebo effect, right? Well, probably not.
Researchers have been studying the non-physical effects of exercise for years, and they have overwhelmingly found that regular physical activity has some pretty great knock-on effects on how your brain functions.
As if you didn’t need any extra kick to get out and start exercising, we’ve distilled down five of the best mental benefits of regular exercise.
1. It improves your mental health
How did you feel the last time you did some cardio exercise? Stuffed? Sure. Sore? Probably. But you probably also felt like you were on a little bit of a mental high, right?
That feeling is real (and no, it’s not just you feeling smug for getting out and going for a run when everybody else is on the couch browsing Facebook). Researchers now think that the feeling is linked not to the release of endorphins but the firing of your endocannabinoid system. That’s your body’s cannabis receptor, so you really are on a mental high after exercise!
But it’s not just your mood that benefits.
Australians are not traditionally good communicators when it comes to their mental health, with Australian men among the most silent when it comes to matters like depression and anxiety. Thankfully, this tradition has begun to shift in recent years, and we are placing greater emphasis on discussing our mental health as a nation.
Recently researchers have been looking into the positive mental effects of exercise on the human mind. They have found that aerobic exercise can be as good as drugs and other psychological treatments in fighting depression. Studies have also found promising results when it comes to anxiety and stress too.
2. It boosts your memory
Regular exercise can boost your memory over time, in both direct and indirect ways. Indirectly, we know that exercise improves mood, sleep and stress levels. Problems with these aspects of your life can impair cognitive function.
But we now know that exercise has some pretty neat direct effects on your memory too. Many studies show that those who exercise see an increased volume in the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory. It can also lead to the release of chemicals that affect the health of your brain cells.
Scientists are now looking to see what a regular fitness regime can do to help stave off Alzheimer’s Disease.
3. It improves concentration
We know that our attention spans are getting shorter. It is a symptom of the times, with the prospect of getting through even the most sedentary of tasks, like watching The Bachelor, impossible without a near-constant checking of your iPhone.
The good news (for Bachelor fans, and the rest of us) is that regular exercise has been shown to improve focus.
One study had school children periodically interspersing their lessons with twenty minutes of aerobics. Researchers found that the kids showed increased levels of concentration, became better at ignoring distractions and got fitter…obviously.
4. Fends off mental old-age
Just like how exercising can help your body stay young, so too can it help your mind stay fit and sprightly. Even mild, regular exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function as we grow older.
5. Makes you more creative
Think about your mind when you’re in the pool swimming laps or out running, no headphones, just your thoughts. It’s the perfect time to solve problems, join the dots or come up with the perfect zinger that would have been a killer comeback in an argument last Thursday.
There’s a reason for these thoughts coming to the surface on your run, it’s because your run is making you more creative. A recent Stanford study revealed that something as simple as a walk on a treadmill can get aid your creative reasoning and assist in helping you create new ideas.
Your brain is a part of your body, so it’s no surprise that those exercises that affect your heart and muscles and lungs also help your mind. With more and more research revealing that regular exercise can help you live a happier, less forgetful, more focused and creative life you now have more reason than ever to start moving more.
So, get up, and get moving!
Need some motivation with those first steps? Better Than Ever can help you start your journey to “LOOK GOOD. FEEL GREAT!”
As we always say: “Everybody deserves to be Better Than Ever!”
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