The physical benefits of exercise are well documented and undisputed. There can’t be many people out there who don’t know that regular exercise and developing strength and fitness reduces the risk of suffering a range of health conditions and chronic illness.
Not just physical benefits
But not everybody understands the positive impact that it has on our brain and mental health. The benefits are far reaching and extensive and include both the immediate short term mood enhancement that it proves as well as the longer term improvements to emotional well-being.
When we exercise the brain releases endorphins. These are the body’s natural pain killers. Not only that but they trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.
This is why you immediately feel good whilst you are exercising and afterwards. For those of you that exercise you will know that the boost in your mood that you receive is reliable and noticeable.
Exercise grows your brain
Then there are the longer term benefits also. Exercise helps chronic depression by increasing serotonin which helps your brain regulate mood, sleep and appetite. Levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor are also increased which helps neurons to grow. So exercise literally provides the conditions for your brain itself to grow and thrive!
And if that’s not enough reasons to start moving your body, exercise also reduces immune system chemicals that can make depression worse as well as limiting the effect of stress on your brain.
The benefits even extend to performance enhancement as well. Scientific research informs us that exercise has been shown to improve concentration and reduce anxiety and negative thoughts that may interfere with executing activities to the best of your ability.
Finally exercise can help you to feel good about yourself. The changes in your body shape or fitness levels and the sense of accomplishment that you feel from maintaining an exercise programme significantly improve self esteem.
Expert advice on building the exercise habit
Khody Damestani, co-founder of mental fitness company, MyMindPal offers the following advice
“Exercise is one of the best ways to protect your mental health, lift your mood and enhance your self esteem. Interestingly attempting to boost your motivation levels is not the best place to start if you are looking to create an exercise habit.
The most important factors are to choose a type of exercise that is easy to do and to consider precisely where it will realistically slot into your day”.