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5 Ways Regular Exercise Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Mark Andrew

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While most of us have probably heard how regular exercise benefits the body, there just isn’t much said about how it can actually be good for the mind. Ask any mental health expert and they’ll probably agree!

Yes, physical activity can actually do more than keep you fit and healthy. The fact of the matter is that “movement,” according to a Readers’ Digest article, “is medicine for the mind.”

Here are 5 different ways exercise can keep your brain in terrific shape!

#1. Exercise promotes brain growth.

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Did you know that the brain tissue shrinks as we advance in years? Yes, it does and exercise may actually be able to prevent that.

Dr. Scott McGinnis, neurologist from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a Harvard Medical School neurology instructor said:

“Engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.”

Additionally, the Harvard website tells us about a University of British Columbia study which found out that “regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.”

It should be mentioned, however, that the researchers specified that resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not bring identical results.

#2. Exercise increases brain-building hormones.

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As far as brain-building hormones are concerned, a Readers’ Digest article tells us that “the chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, stimulates the growth and proliferation of brain cells.”

This just means that the more a person exercises, the more he or she will be able to produce BDNF.

#3. Exercise helps you battle anxiety and depression.

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Particularly, running has been mentioned as a great, natural way of fighting negative thoughts and emotions.

As evolutionary clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis, PhD put it:

“Running causes lasting changes in our ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, both during and after exercise.”

There are, of course, many other forms of exercise that can benefit depressed or anxious people. Yoga, for example, is considered by many experts as a complementary treatment.

“The great thing about yoga is that besides the stretching and core strengthening, there is a tremendous focus on breathing, which helps to slow down and calm the mind,” shared Michaelis.

#4. Exercise relieves stress.

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“Exercise,” another Harvard feature explained, “reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.” Furthermore, physical activity likewise “stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.”

#5. Exercise improves your memory and thinking skills.

Source: Pexels

Harvard tells us:

“Exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills…

“Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.

“Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.”

So yes, you get the picture. You’ll definitely experience a lot of great advantages if you take the time to include exercise in your regular routines.

Michaelis explained:

“We know that the old divisions of body and mind are false. The body is the mind and the mind is the body. When you take care of yourself, you are helping the whole system.”

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