While the physical benefits of exercise — weight control, increased flexibility, reduced risk of diabetes, and lowered blood pressure are obvious — the psychological rewards can be just as important to your overall well-being.
1. Reduced Stress
Whether you’re a corporate lawyer or stay-at-home parent, stress inevitably affects you in some way or another. Everything from headaches to gastrointestinal discomfort can be attributed to stress, and it’s important to monitor these ailments to ensure they aren’t indicative of a more serious condition.
When it comes to run-of-the-mill stress, simply elevating your heart rate can impact your health in meaningful ways. An increased heart rate will lead to the production of neurohormones, which can improve your mood as well as overall cognition and thinking processes. Exercise also encourages your body’s central and sympathetic nerve systems to communicate, improving your ability to respond to stressful situations.
2. Depression and Anxiety Relief
Working out can do wonders for your mental health in both the short- and long-term. Physical activity works to diffuse depression by increasing endorphin production in the body. Simply put, endorphins are chemical neurotransmitters that communicate signals from one neuron to the next. These play an important role in the overall functioning of your body’s nervous system: their analgesic qualities make you feel good. Exercise is a scientifically proven mood booster, and it can even improve your ability to make sound decisions. In short, frequent exercise can help you process negative emotions so you’re better equipped to focus on the positive. Rigorous activity also enables you to retreat from your worries and escape the negative cycle that often perpetuates depressive, anxious thoughts.
3. Sound Sleep
For obvious reasons, exercise can lead to better sleep — as we expend physical energy, our bodies gradually become more tired. But exercise does more than make you tired; it can improve the actual duration and quality of your rest. Physical exertion increases the time spent in “deep sleep,” which restores your body’s core functions and enables it to more effectively fight disease and bacteria and support holistic heart health.
4. Self-esteem Boost
Regular exercise allows us to lose weight and improve muscle tone, which generally makes us feel better about ourselves. Even if you didn’t set out on your fitness journey with the goal of enhancing your physique, there is no denying the psychological boost in confidence that coincides with improved physical well-being.
5. Memory Enhancement
Routine physical activity has been proven to sharpen the brain’s capacity to remember and learn new things. As we age, the part of our brain known as the hippocampus shrinks, impeding memory and general information retention. Exercising increases cell production in the hippocampus, in turn augmenting both children’s and adults’ ability to remember things and grasp new concepts.
Whether your goal is to slim down for summer or improve your overall health, regular exercise has a number of long-lasting, positive effects. Begin reaping the benefits by planning an activity regimen that works for your body and your schedule.
Looking for an exercise class? Try Interval Training: Every Tuesday at Independence LIVE.
This article was originally published in Philly Voice.