Most people go to the gym or work out to improve their health, build muscle, and have a fitter body. However, exercise can have tremendous impact on our brain and overall mental health.
The next time you debate whether to go work out, consider the following benefits:
1. Stress Reduction – Tough day at work? Consider taking a long walk, or making a quick trip to the gym. The most common mental benefit of exercise is stress relief; it increases levels of norepinephrine, a chemical that regulates the brain’s response to stress.
2. Boosts Happy Brain Chemicals – The next time you think, “I hate the treadmill,” remember that your brain loves it. Exercise releases endorphins that are responsible for feelings of euphoria and happiness. If you suffer from depression, or are feeling a bit down, consider adding exercise to your regimen. You don’t have to spent hours in the gym to reap the benefits; 30 minute workouts a few times a week can do the trick.
3. Confidence Booster – We often go into a workout kicking and screaming, but it’s rare to find someone post-workout who has regrets. That’s because not only do you feel good post-workout, but you often look it. Regardless of whether you’re seeing noticeable results, exercise can swiftly increase our perceptions of self-worth. As we continue, the obvious physical changes only solidify our positive relationship with ourselves.
4. Vitamin Gain – If you’re one who takes his or her workout outside, be prepared for more than just fresh air. Sunshine not only provides our body with Vitamin D, but it also helps reduce depressive symptoms. There’s more to just running to be done outside, too. Consider cycling, yoga, rowing, or a grab a few friends and consider joining a league.
5. Help Your Brain – As much as we hate to admit it, aging impacts the body and the brain. However, exercise has been show to have a remarkable impact on slowing aging of both, including helping to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s or even to combat Osteoporosis. As we’ve learned from recent research, exercise can even grow new brain cells. Even though you won’t be able to see it, exercise results in a healthier, sexier brain.
6. Maximizing Memory – Memory not what it used to be? Exercise can help with that. Just like with preventing diseases and aging, exercises knack for stimulating your hippocampus boosts your memory and helps you to retain information when learning new things. Studying a new language? Schedule in routine workouts to maximize your likelihood of success.
7. Controlling Addiction – Dopamine—the principal chemical responsible for pleasure—is also what drives addiction. We just can’t get enough of it. However, instead of turning to drugs, alcohol, or food for a dopamine release, consider exercise. Not only does exercise help in addition recovery, but it helps you prioritize your dopamine cravings.
Of course, regular exercise is just one strategy to promote mental wellness. If you are feeling overwhelmed with stress, anxiety, or sadness, mental health counselling can be an essential part of taking care of yourself. However, the next time you’re trying to motivate yourself to hit the gym, remember: your body AND your brain will thank you.
This article was written by Megan Rafuse, MSW RSW. Megan is a social worker, clinical therapist, and the founder and clinical director of SHIFT. SHIFT is Toronto's premier therapy clinic, with a keen focus on being relatable, honest, and friendly.
SHIFT is collaborative therapy clinic aimed at doing things a little bit differently to support your mental health needs. You can find us in Yorkville, Toronto and we have diverse training in all areas. In addition to our in-office sessions, we offer e-Counselling and workshops—many of which are free.
Transforming your body is important, but so is transforming your mind. We are ready for some change, and so are you.