The Exercise and Mental Health Connection

8.28.17 / Comment

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We all know the many physical benefits of exercising. Staying physically active helps maintain or achieve a healthy weight, combats diseases, boosts your energy and can even be fun! But did you know that it can benefit your mental health too? Psychology researchers are still finding evidence on the details of how much exercise, which exercise and more but as the evidence piles up, the connection between exercise and mental health is hard to ignore. In fact, some researchers are even recommending that exercise be used as a treatment option. Now there’s even more reason to stay healthy and to stay active! Below we’ve listed some of the many mental health benefits that exercise can give you.


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Reduce Stress

Working up a sweat after a stressful day can help manage and relief physical and mental stress. Exercising and staying active increases the concentration of the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine. ¬†Norepinephrine is a chemical that controls the body’s response to stress (1). So after a hectic day at the office, sweat it out at the gym or take a nice long walk!


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Mood Boost

Experts say that we feel the effects of exercise on our mood in as little as 5 minutes after completion. However, these effects of physical activity go above and beyond the short term. New research shows that regular exercise can help alleviate long-term depression. Researchers at Boston University did extensive research and reviews on exercise and mental health; their findings showed that exercise and physical activity is a powerful way to fight clinical depression. The researchers even recommend that clinicians add it to their treatment plans (2).


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Prevents Cognitive Decline

Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases kill off brain cells, actually shrinking the brain. While exercise and a healthy diet cannot cure these diseases, they can aid the brain in defending against declines. Staying active, especially between the ages of 25 and 45, can amplify certain chemicals in the brain that prevent degeneration of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is an important part of the brain responsible for memory and learning (1). It’s important to make healthy diets and exercise a priority as we age!


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Treats Anxiety

Newer research is exploring how exercise can treat anxiety and our body’s responses to it. Our body’s responses to anxiety, threats and fear are sweating, increased heart rate and dizziness. Researchers suggest that exercising regularly will help people who are prone to anxiety less likely to have these panic responses. Our bodies produce the same physical reactions — sweating and increased heart rate — to exercise, too (1).


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Helps You Sleep Better

Core temperature plays an important role in healthy sleep. Exercise and physical activity plays an important role in getting enough, good quality sleep. Early morning and afternoon workouts will raise the body’s core temperature. The temperature will then drop and trigger sleepiness in a few hours. However, it is still okay to workout before bed. The time of the workout and the way it affects our sleep, depends on the individual (3).

Looking for simple, quick & easy workouts? We’ve listed some of our favorite ways to stay active and healthy below!

20 Minute At-Home Full Body Circuit

At-Home Bodyweight Workout

Focus on Flexibility

Walk Towards a Healthier You

Staying Active as a Family

(1) The Exercise Effect. American Psychological Association.
http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx

(2) 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. Huffington Post.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/mental-health-benefits-exercise_n_2956099.html

(3) How Exercise Affects Sleep. Sleep. https://sleep.org/articles/exercise-affects-sleep/

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