Exercise is good for the body and mind

Regular workouts can help improve our mental health as well

Most of us are familiar with the physical benefits that come with regular exercise: weight loss, muscle development, better sleep and more energy, to name a few.

But some of the lesser-known benefits from a workout have to do with our mental health.

Just getting off the couch and heading to the gym, fitness center or trail will likely brighten one’s mood for the short term with a sense of accomplishment, according to an article in Psychology Today.

When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, according to WebMD. These are your body’s natural feel-good hormones that can make problems seem more manageable.

Dr. John J. Ratey, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of “A User’s Guide to the Brain,” believes regular physical activity is also mental activity.

“Exercise is really for the brain, not the body,” Ratey said. “It affects mood, vitality, alertness and feelings of well-being.”

Once exercise begins, a number of factors begin to ease our worries and improve our mental outlook.

Getting on the treadmill or walking laps at the mall allows us to focus on the fact that we are exercising, which gives us a mental diversion from worries. Psychology Today reports this evidence is growing and it suggests physical fitness can treat even chronic mental illness, such as reducing the effects of depression, dementia and anxiety.

The activity doesn’t have to be high-impact. Yoga has been linked with improving mental health. According to mentalhelp.org, yoga is an effective stress reduction tool. Stretching muscles and joints during the yoga poses can produce relaxation in the same way a massage does.

According to helpguide.com, physical activity is the No. 1 contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life – even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. It can help improve brain functions such as multitasking and creativity and can even help prevent memory loss and may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

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