The mental benefits of exercise

18th August 2018

Many are in understanding on the health benefits exercising holds on the physical body yet equally as many people are oblivious that the benefits of exercising stretch beyond physical boundaries and can lead to improvements in mood and life-changing results on the overall status of personal mental health.

How many times has your partner or your mother chastised you for being a couch potato every evening after work, crunching down on snacks high in salt and sugar content? This is standard behaviour after a tedious day in the office however in recent years, the trend of being physically active is becoming more prevalent, almost an addictive drug especially for those who are caught in an extremely intense lifestyle, wading endlessly and aimlessly across mountains of workload. Why? Many would assume the sole goal of heading to the gym after work, puckering your biceps with a set of barbells or pounding the pavement along the Thames is to achieve the ultimate display-worthy summer body yet for most people, the cause extends beyond a photogenic physique and is a therapeutic support to achieve some calm and release. Below, we have gathered the recognised psychological benefits exercising can deliver for the mind and to help you understand why taking a small chunk of time to exercise often can prove life-enhancing, more effective than a packet of crisps and sweets.

Healthy body = healthy mind

The benefits of exercise on mental wellbeing and contribution on the improvement of cognitive functions have been topics of interest to researchers for many years yet through recent studies carried out by University of Oxford, the old-aged saying ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ has proven accurate and go hand in hand with each other. As discussed in the study, health has the capacity to impair cognitive functions as health problems including a weak immune system serve as mental distracters. Therefore, by undertaking regular exercise shows results of cognitive enhancements through a combination of increased blood circulation and the release of nerve growth-boosting factors. However, in order to promote and maintain strong and steady brainpower, the conditions of exercise such as the length of time and intensity of the exercise are considerable.

Stress relief

Is stress or anxiety an emotion you feel daily? When stressed, do you feel your muscles tense leading to migraines, headaches and other forms of physical aches? When the body is under stress, the body and mind reacts to this strange emotion by ejecting it in the form of pain, which in itself is additional stress and to break free from this trap of physical pain, exercise can play the mediator between the body and mind, dispelling this negative element from our systems. As established earlier, the mind and body are closely interlinked so when the body feels better, so does the mind.

For some, exercise is an avenue to break away and disconnect from the stress-inducing factors surrounded in our daily lives otherwise known as breaking a sweat to sweat it all out and this is because exercising promotes the release of endorphins, which are feel-good transmitters in the brain allowing a boost in mood, forgetting all the troubles of making ends meet or putting making baby’s milk with the correct ratio of milk powder to hot water.

As well as using exercise as a means to improve mood and control mood fluctuations, studies suggest that by putting the body under physical stress through a regular and medium-to-high level of intensity workouts, the body and mind adapts and develops a coping mechanism to physical and mental stress.

Hello Happy!

Feeling happy is a giant balloon of emotion associated with exercising. As already glazed over, exercising promotes an increase in the release of endorphins otherwise known as a natural “happy chemical”, that treats the brain to a great big pleasure without the attached concerns of addiction or overdose. These buds of joy are released through exercise and evolve into a bloom of happiness post-workout, reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. However, certified doctors still advise keeping exercising to a moderate degree as too much of anything can cause more harm than good.

Sound asleep

You geared your body into full training for two hours today so naturally, the body needs time to recuperate and repair from the physical festivities, which is no wonder many have received a smooth night’s sleep after exercising. The body repairs naturally and at the optimum level at night when the body is asleep so to no surprise this mysterious behaviour is also highly associated to an improvement in mood through a better night’s sleep as well as feeling more refreshed and physically and mentally capable for the challenges ahead (source).

Captivating confidence

Exercising can deliver multiple physical improvements, from toning the muscles to losing weight and by having implemented this new component into your weekly agenda the results are items worth commending with a round of applause. Having achieved these results, this can add to an improvement in self-esteem and personal confidence as you slip dreamily into your new majestic salmon toned, form-hugging satin dress. Confidence and personal satisfaction and fulfilment can be experienced in many forms and whether you are now able to climb uphill without breaking a breath or being able to work on the new puzzle at the boulder wall, physical improvement inadvertently delivers a platter of confidence to the body, mind and spirit, serving as a multi-purpose and well-rounded therapeutic option to reach new headspace.