Exercise is great for the body, no question, but did you know it can be fantastic for your mental health as well? It’s true, the next time you are feeling down and depressed take an after dinner walk, you will be amazed at the immediate lift in your spirits. The mental health benefits of fitness and exercise are varied, we will touch on just a few below.
Chemical Reactions in the Brain
When you put your body through its paces on the treadmill or with other forms of exercise there are multiple chemicals released in the brain. These include:
- Endorphins are neurotransmitters responsible for interacting with receptors in the brain in order to block pain and regulate mood. (beta endorphins are stronger than morphine) When you exercise your body becomes flooded with these “feel good” chemicals, giving you the ability to exercise longer and at higher levels.
- Serotonin is a neurochemical that affects numerous bodily functions including, digestion, bowel movements, sleep, and mood. Exercise boosts production and release of serotonin.
- Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor is a crucial brain protein that aids in maintaining neurons and producing new ones which in turn helps ward off disorders such as Alzheimer and Parkinson disease.
The release of chemicals is only one part of the equation and while it is a major player, how you feel about yourself is also an important part of good mental health. Exercise is a good way to get out and socialize with other like minded people plus as you begin to get fit you will get a boost in self-esteem. If you want to really increase your mood and the benefits of exercise do it outside in the fresh air and sunshine, where you get the added benefit of Vitamin D from the sun.
Exercise offers more than just weight loss or improved strength. All the chemical reactions taking place in your body will vastly improve your physical and mental health while giving you the self-confidence to meet the world on your own terms. Regular exercise will allow you to sleep better, concentrate more fully and so much more.