Your Brain On Exercise: 5 Mental Benefits of Working Out

It is well known that engaging in a regular exercise program provides many physical and aesthetic benefits to your body. From improving your heart health to toning your tush, working out is simply good for you.

The role of exercise in mental health is as important as the physical benefits yet it is rarely talked about. Mounting research shows the overwhelmingly positive effects of exercise on cognition, memory, mood, self-confidence, stress levels and overall happiness. Here are 5 critical benefits to regular exercise in maintaining mental heath:

1. ) Stress Reducer

Reduces Stress
Prolonged or intense stress can have a very damaging effect on both the body and mind. Stress has been linked as one of the causes for many physical and mental health issues. One of the best, easiest and cheapest ways to relieve stress is with a good workout. Exercise promotes the release of a number of chemicals including norepinephrine, which can help to regulate how we deal with stress and make our bodies more efficient. Physical activity can also help relieve anxiety and has been a big part of many therapy protocols for people suffering from anxiety disorders and depression.

2.) Natural High

Stimulates Endorphins
Exercising stimulates endorphin production in many different areas of the body, such as the brain and spinal cord. When released into the bloodstream during exercise, these endorphins positively effect the body. They can act as a painkiller providing a soothing and calming effect, a sense of happiness or even euphoria. Exercise also stimulates the release of the feel-good chemicals known as adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine.

3.) Brain Builder

Improves Brain Function
Working out is not only good for building beauty or brawn but it’s also great for building brains. Exercise has been shown to help improve brain function and performance as well as stimulate the development of new brain cells. Key parts of our brains that control memory and learning start to deteriorate by our mid-twenties. Physical activity has been shown to slow and even reverse this deterioration. Just like with muscles, exercise can help strengthen neurons in the brain making them more flexible and nimble. It also helps sharpen memory, improve problem-solving skills and learning.

4.) Increased Productivity

Increases Productivity
Research has shown that employees who exercise regularly outperform co-workers who don’t. Exercise makes you both more productive and creative. Not only does it increase energy levels, it also improves concentration and cognition. The best time for office workers to get their workout fix has been shown to be morning or midday hours. Chalk it up to good old-fashioned competitiveness but exercise can inspire others to not only improve their health and fitness but also increase their work performance.

5.) Confidence Booster

Increases Self Confidence
Exercise can improve mood, boost self-esteem and increase happiness with just the slightest gains. You don't need to drastically change your body to start feeling the positive effects of exercise on self confidence but that feeling can inspire you to maintain your fitness regime. Studies have shown that people who regularly workout have a more positive self-image overall and a higher perception of self-worth and attractiveness than those who don’t. While the physical and aesthetic effects of working out are great for your muscles and organs, don't underestimate the extremely important benefits of activity for that big, squishy, blob of goo in your skull. Author: Declan Condron MS, CSCS, USAW Hyperwear Director of Education