How exercise can improve your mental health

HIIT training improves blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol profiles, cardiovascular health, and decreases abdominal fat and body weight (while maintaining muscle mass). Exercise doesn’t just affect our bodies; it also affects our brains. There seems to be an interesting connection between HIIT training and brain boosting benefits.

Cognitive benefits as the result from regular exercise include:

  • Lower stress
  • Release endorphins
  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper memory
  • Faster learning
  • Prolonged mental stamina
  • Enhanced creativity

1. Lower stress

If you've had a bad day, instead of reaching for the wine, take yourself to the gym. One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Not only does exercise help to manage physical and mental stress, it also increases norepinephrine (a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress).

2. Release happy hormones

Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed . It has been found that in some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Even as little as 30 minutes of exercise can boost your overall mood - that time wasted online could be spent getting a natural high instead.

3. Improve concentration

Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance . Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning.

4. Improve self-confidence

Physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. When you exercise, the body releases chemical substances known as endorphins which relieve stress and make you feel good psychologically. This boosts your confidence.

5. Prevent cognitive decline

As aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s kill off brain cells, the noggin actually shrinks, losing many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” Alzheimer’s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45 . Exercising, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.

6. Alleviate anxiety

The hormones that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. 30 minutes or more of moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety sensitivity. Some people swear by running to clear their mind but find what works for you.

8. Sharpen memory
Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Exercise increases production of cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning . A study exploring the links between exercise and memory showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults .

10. Sleep aid

Exercise can be a great aid for those who suffer from insomnia. Doing a workout five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep. Try not to exercise too late in the evening as you may find it has the opposite effect, especially if you need to eat afterwards.

11. Boosts productivity

Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. Leeds Metropolitan University carried out a studied which examined the influence of daytime exercise among office workers with access to a company gym.

Within the study, researchers had over 200 employees at a variety of companies self-report their performance on a daily basis. They then examined fluctuations within individual employees, comparing their output on days when they exercised to days when they didn’t. On days when employees visited the gym, their experience at work changed. They reported managing their time more effectively, being more productive, and having smoother interactions with their colleagues.

If you are worried about taking a proper lunch break, you can do so guilt free knowing you will actually work better for having done so.

12. Increases creativity

A gym session that increases your heart rate can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards. These benefits are increased by exercising outdoors, amongst nature. If you need a boost of creativity, head outside to your local park and work up a sweat.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment

You must be Logged in to post a comment.