The Top Six Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
Now more than ever, taking steps to preserve your mental health is imperative. A lot is happening in the world, yet each of us can play a part in ensuring that we are mentally healthy and sound. One of the best ways to do this is by getting in regular exercise.
A Brief Review On The Importance Of Exercise
According to the National Institutes of Health, aerobic exercise and other forms of movement are linked to a reduction in depression and anxiety. Getting your body moving and engaging in exercise comes with a series of other health benefits.
While your mental health certainly reaps advantages, so does your emotional health and physical health. As you can imagine, different types of health are inherently tethered to one another. This means that your emotional and physical health can impact your mental health and vice versa. For these reasons, getting regular exercise can only help you.
If you are not used to exercising or are unsure of where to begin, don’t worry. The benefits of exercise are not mutually exclusive to an intense and rigorous movement. Light stretching, jogging in a park, or running for ten minutes on a treadmill a few times per week can work wonders. Exercise can work miracles at all levels; as you progress, you may find yourself feeling ready to take on more intense levels of physical activity, but if not, that’s OK too.
Why Does Mental Health Matter?
Understanding the leading mental health benefits of exercise is all well and good. However, for this information to stick, it’s equally critical to know why mental health is so important. Having a complete understanding of how much mental health impacts your life can be a motivational factor as you seek to reap applicable benefits from exercise.
Psychology Today explains that the presence of a healthy mind allows human beings to understand life experiences, stay in touch with their emotions, and more. High quality of mental health allows you to process things clearly and move through the world productively. Being a mentally healthy individual impact the way you feel about yourself, how you interact with others, and so much more.
By exercising regularly, you can actively take steps to improve your mental health. Believe it or not, every little bit counts, even if you are not consciously aware of the benefits that each session of exercise has on your mental health.
The Leading Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise
Science, psychology, and other studies have documented the positive impacts that aerobic exercise and other forms of physical movement have on mental health. Since the importance of exercise and mental health have been individually covered, it’s not imperative to note the top six mental health benefits of exercise.
No matter who you are, what your lifestyle is like, or what challenges you may be facing, there is always room for regular exercise to help your mental wellbeing. With that in mind, you deserve to know about the following six mental health benefits.
Cutting back on stress is one of the most important mental health benefits that you can get from aerobic exercise and other forms of physical activity. The American Psychology Association explains that 44% of adults engage in walking or other forms of exercise to cope with stress.
The reduction of stress can only positively improve the quality of your life and mental health. This is why regular exercise can improve your interpersonal relationships, manner of processing information, and your ability to deal with challenges. Each of these factors impacts your ability to move through the world and productively carry yourself. Exercise helps in many ways, but the reduction of stress most certainly takes the cake.
Clearer Thoughts And Memories
Another of several mental health benefits of getting in exercise includes clearer thoughts and memories. When you get your body moving, endorphins are released. Now, while these endorphins make you feel better physically, they also improve concentration skills and help foster new brain cell growth. Having clearer thoughts and memories is both great for your mental health, but also helpful for combating certain declines linked to aging.
Better Sleep At Night
Getting a high-quality, proper night’s rest is another one of the benefits of exercise. Because regular exercise increases the physical temperature of your body, your brain can have an easier time winding down when you want to sleep at night.
Additionally, another one of the sleep-related health benefits of exercise includes circadian rhythm regulation. Each person’s circadian rhythm determines when they feel sleepy and awake. In the long run, getting a consistently great night’s rest can benefit not only your mental health but also your emotional and physical health.
Allows For Connections With Other People
Interpersonal relationships — or lack thereof — play a vital role in the mental health of any individual. Thankfully, exercise paves the way for you to connect with other human beings, if this is something you’re interested in.
Granted, some people do choose to exercise alone, but there are several ways to get your body moving with others. Taking workout classes regularly or signing up for a gym membership can help you connect with other human beings. In the long run, these positive relationships can pave the way to better social skills or connections that you previously didn’t have. As you can imagine, all of this can impact the quality of your mental health and how you see the world.
Helps You Learn More About Yourself
Being in touch with who you are playing a vital role in your mental health. If you’re interested in learning more about yourself, then you will certainly want to partake in regular exercise.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, not all forms of exercise are the same. Some people prefer light exercise or aerobic exercise. Others find that getting in more intensive exercise such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is more beneficial for them. No type of exercise is inherently “better” than the other. The type of regular exercise that you choose to engage in is up to you; however, it can help you learn more about yourself and your interests.
In the long run, this information can be good for gaining a stronger sense of self-awareness, something which greatly impacts mental health.
Reduces Your Likelihood Of Physical Health Issues
As previously stated, all forms of your health — whether physical, emotional, or mental — are interconnected with one another. This is why a reduced likelihood of suffering from physical health issues is listed as a top mental health benefit of exercise.
Physical health issues can play a very real role in the quality of someone’s mental health. People with concerns about their ability to function, provide for themselves and/or their loved ones, etc. can suffer from mental health issues like depression or anxiety. However, getting your body moving regularly can reduce the likelihood of dealing with subsequent mental health problems.
Sometimes, prevention can be one of the greatest benefits of all. Taking care of your physical health can ultimately help you afford the luxury of bypassing certain mental health issues. Taking care of yourself always pays off, even if you are not immediately or consciously aware of its benefits.
A Final Word On Exercise And Mental Health
The benefits of exercise on mental health are undeniable; however, getting your body moving regularly does not automatically mean that you’ll never deal with any challenges in life. Left unchecked, these challenges can take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health. Exercise certainly plays a very powerful role in the quality of mental health; however, it is not the only determining factor or end-all.
If you are struggling in life, you need to know that you are not alone. Even more critical is your awareness that light exists at the end of the tunnel, and you will be OK. Even with the best personal steps and intentions, hardships can take their toll. This is why knowing how to ask for help is so important; doing so can improve your mental health, but also the overall quality of your life.
Mental Health Support And Resources From BetterHelp
BetterHelp is proud to provide online therapy as a form of mental health support. Today’s world is full of challenges; sometimes, it can be tough to navigate through the thick of things, but you don’t have to do it on your own.
Working with an online therapist allows you to develop a healthy connection with someone who can help you change your life. Better emotional stability, greater self-awareness, and a heightened understanding of life are just some of the many benefits linked to online therapy. Furthermore, comes the bonus of being able to work with your online therapist from anywhere in the world.
Ultimately, the decision to begin online therapy is up to you. Should you determine that working with a BetterHelp online therapist is a good fit for you, we will be here every step of the way to support and guide you.