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5 Ways That Exercise Is Good for Your Mental Health

Exercise offers more rewards than just a flatter stomach or getting cut. Even small amounts of movement are excellent for your mental health too. Read on to discover five more reasons to get off the couch and get in some activity.


1. It Treats Depression and Anxiety


If you’re looking for an antidepressant that doesn’t carry any unsavory side effects with it, all you need to do is get moving. Research shows that exercise can be as powerful and effective as prescription antidepressants.


You don’t have to start training for a triathlon to reap the mental health benefits, either. A moderate amount exercise — like a yoga session in front of your current TV obsession or a walk after dinner — is all it takes to rally enough endorphins to improve your mood and calm your nerves.


2. It Helps You Sleep Better


Can’t sleep? That’s another reason to stick to regular exercise plan. When you’re active, your body temperature rises, creating a sense of calm across your brain. When your brain is relaxed, it’s considerably easier to drift off to Dreamland.


Exercise also helps you start and stick to a healthy sleep schedule. It does so by stabilizing your circadian rhythm, which is what determines when you feel energized and when you feel like you could fall asleep in the middle of this Target if security didn’t already have its eye on you.


3. It Lowers Stress


If it seems like all the items on this list are related, it’s because they are. Your body is a literally awesome network of interconnected systems that rely on each other for peak performance. When you’re stressed out, you’re likely not sleeping well and you may be experiencing Sunday Scaries every day of the week. Exercise tackles all these problems at once. It's very efficient.


Exercise decreases stress through two common avenues: raising your heart rate and forcing your nervous system to work well together. Elevating your heart rate kickstarts the production of norepinephrine and other hormones that better not only your mood but also your cognition and focus. Meanwhile, cranking up your nervous system as you go for a bike forces its central and sympathetic branches to talk to each other. All this practice communication helps your body handle stress better when it happens.


4. It Keeps You Sharp


Exercise strengthens your brain function in a variety of ways. Check it out:

  • It creates brand-new brain cells.

  • It can send creativity skyrocketing.

  • It improves memory by beefing up your hippocampus.

  • It lowers your risk of cognitive decline.

It’s little wonder why so many talented people, from CEOs to MCs, often recount getting their best ideas at the gym.


5. It Provides a Confidence Boost


When you look and feel healthier, you feel better overall. When you feel better overall, you’re almost certainly more confident. It’s not exactly rocket science, yet so many people still don’t make movement a part of their daily routine.


What's more, losing weight is only part of the equation. Exercise lowers your risk of everything from heart disease to dementia and increases your stamina and endurance. If you're keeping score at home, that means that regular activity makes you more physically attractive, gives you more energy, improves your ability to hang and makes it less likely that you’ll suffer from dozens of debilitating health problems as you age. Is it any wonder why everything in that last sentence leads to high self-esteem?


The positive effects that exercise has on the brain are more proof of the incredible link between your body and your mind. When one’s not right, neither of them feels right. Get your mental health back on track and help it stay there by making a commitment to regular movement.

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