Benefits of Working Out
Many people go to yoga class or hit the gym to improve cardiovascular health, build lean muscle, and of course, get a rockin’ bod, but working out has above-the-neck benefits, too. Regardless of age or fitness level, studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits.
1. Reduce stress. Rough day? Take a walk, go to yoga class or head to the gym. One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress.
2. Boost happy chemicals. Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Getting a buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood.
3. Improve self-confidence. Physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender, or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth.
4. Enjoy the great outdoors. Exercising in the great outdoors can increase self-esteem even more. Find an outdoor workout that fits your style, whether it’s rock-climbing, hiking, renting a canoe, or just taking a walk in the park. Plus, all that Vitamin D acquired from soaking up the sun can lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms.
5. Prevent cognitive decline. As we get older, our brains get a little… hazy. As aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s kill off brain cells, the brain actually shrinks, losing many important 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. Working out, 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. Chemicals released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders. Moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety sensitivity.
7. Boost brainpower. 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.
8. Sharpen memory. Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things.
9. Help control addiction. The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure, be that exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol, or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol. On the bright side, exercise can help in addiction recovery. Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings.
10. Increase relaxation. For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Moving around 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.
11. Get more done. Workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session or yoga class in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian rhythms.
12. Tap into creativity. A heart-pumping session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards.
Take time for exercise on a regular basis!