Most people hit the gym to improve their physical health and stay in shape. But, did you know that exercising regularly can boost brain function, too? Here are nine mental health benefits of exercise:
1. Reduces stress
One of the most common mental health benefits of exercise is stress relief. This is because exercise increases concentrations of norepinephrine, which is a chemical that helps moderate the brain's response to stress.
2. Boosts endorphins
Exercise releases endorphins, which are the brain's natural feel-good chemicals. They create feelings of happiness and euphoria. For an instant mood boost, head to the gym for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.
3. Improves self-confidence
Hopping on the elliptical can make you feel good about yourself. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem, making you feel more attractive and elevating your self-worth.
4. Decreases anxiety
The chemicals that are released in the brain during exercise can significantly decrease anxiety, helping those with anxiety disorders to calm down. In fact, engaging in moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety sensitivity.
5. Sharpens memory
Regular physical exercise boosts memory and the ability to learn new things. More specifically, cardio activity increases the production of cells in the hippocampus that are responsible for memory and learning.
6. Helps control addiction
The brain releases dopamine, which is the reward chemical, in response to exercise drugs, sex, and alcohol. But, some people become addicted to dopamine and become dependent on substances as a result. The good news is that exercise can help with addiction recovery -- it helps people to fight and de-prioritize cravings and reset the body's internal clock.
7. Increases relaxation
Research has shown that a moderate workout can be the same as taking a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. You should get active five or six hours before your usual bedtime, which can help signal sleep to your body later on.
8. Promotes productivity
Regular exercise can help you become more productive. How? Research demonstrates that those who exercise several times a week are more productive and have more energy than those who don't work out.
9. Boosts creativity
Did you know that going to the gym can inspire creativity? One gym session can boost creativity for up to two afterward.
You shouldn't just engage in cardio exercise for the physical benefits. There are tons of mental health benefits, too. To reap both mental and physical health benefits of exercise, be sure to engage in moderate-to-strenuous cardio for at least 30 minutes five days a week.