Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health
While this time of the year can be a favorite season for many, for others, it can be a tough time. Whether you have experienced a loss that hits a little harder during the holiday season or the changing seasons cause you to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it’s important to keep extra attention on your mental health during this time of year. Exercise is by no means a substitute for personalized treatment from a mental health professional, but it still comes jam-packed with benefits for your brain. Below, we’ll go over a few of the most prominent ways that explain how exercise can provide you with a much-needed boost of serotonin this holiday season.
There’s a genuine biological reaction.
Speaking of serotonin, exercise has a bona fide chemical reaction that has been proven to better position you for good mental health. You may have noticed firsthand (or seen other people) the post-workout glow that people have. No, we’re not talking about sweat. We’re talking about the good mood that is visible right on their faces after an excellent workout. According to HealthDirect, “Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood… [it also] pumps blood to the brain, which can help you to think more clearly.” So, if you don’t want to take our word for it, given that we’re a bunch of gym rats, listen to the scientists.
It improves your memory.
While not related to how you’re feeling, memory is still an element of your mental health. Luckily, exercise is one of the best natural supplements for your memory. Findings from Brigham Young University found, “Exercise improves memory by increasing molecular targets like the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This molecular factor increases synaptogenesis, forming new synapses that mediate learning and memory, making it easier to absorb information and form long-term memories.” Get that blood flowing into your brain and experience the memory benefits for yourself.
Exercise helps combat anxiety and depression.
Regarding mental health disorders, let’s talk about the two biggies: anxiety and depression. Especially in a post-COVID world, there’s seemingly no way that you, or someone in your immediate circle, are not impacted by one of these two insidious conditions. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, no amount of exercise will be able to compete with the assistance a mental health professional can offer. However, MayoClinic noted, “Research on depression and anxiety shows that exercise and other physical activity can help improve mood, reduce anxiety and improve other health problems.” As a disclaimer, if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact your local emergency mental health services or dial 911.
Finally, it relieves stress.
Last but not least, it’s just an all-around stress reliever. It’s really as simple as that. After you work out, you just feel better. The geniuses at Harvard have echoed this point by saying, “Exercise reduces stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins, which together help foster relaxation.” We second that statement!
We hope you find these tips helpful, especially if you are struggling with your mental health as the days get shorter and the holidays come around. A nice workout at the gym may be just what the doctor ordered.