It’s widely known that exercise can improve cardiovascular health and increase fitness. Research has proven that daily physical activity can help lower risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
However, exercise not only provides physical benefits, but it also helps improve your mental health.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that more than 40 million adults are affected by anxiety disorders. Research shows that aerobic exercises - such as walking, swimming, gardening, jogging, cycling and dancing - can help lower depression and anxiety, improve mood and boost self-esteem.
Studies have also shown exercise can reduce stress. Taking a walk or jog after a long day can relieve your stress and improve your mood.
When you work out, your body releases endorphins - chemicals in the brain that create feelings of happiness and joy. Many doctors recommend exercise for people with depression and anxiety. Some studies have even found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in relieving symptoms of depression.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, exercising a few hours before bedtime can help induce sleep. For some people, a workout before bedtime can increase adrenaline, making it hard to fall asleep. But for others, a light walk or jog a few hours before bedtime can act as a sleeping pill. In one study, exercise (e.g., walking) shortened the time it took to fall asleep and increased length of sleep.
Exercise not only helps improve mood, relieve stress and help with sleep, but it also can help with memory and learning. Some studies have shown that exercise can boost brain performance. In fact, one study showed that sprints improved the speed at which adults learned vocabulary. This same study also found that exercise lowered risk of age-related cognitive decline.
No matter your goals - whether to improve fitness or increase mental health - commit to becoming more physically active. It has even more benefits than you realized.