We’ve all experienced that fantastic feeling after a workout – food seems to taste better, you seem to sleep better and the day seems a little brighter. But why is this the case? As it turns out, exercise has a myriad of benefits for our mental health as well as our physical health.
Exercise can help with depression and anxiety.
In fact, it’s recommended by a lot of mental health professionals. A workout can affect the chemicals in your brain including the levels of serotonin, endorphins and stress hormones. Regular moderate exercise has been found to help relieve some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Just an hour of exercise per week can also halve your risk of dementia.
Getting active and social also has its advantages…
Socialising produces a handful of benefits for your health, from improving your lifespan to reducing the risk of dementia in later life. Pair that socialising with fitness in a BodyPump or Pilates class and you’ll get the combined benefits of physical and mental boosts. Plus, it’s often easier to stay motivated when you can look forward to seeing friends at the gym.
It’s an excellent way to relieve stress.
Remember that link between exercise and endorphins? When your body moves it releases more of these hormones which make you feel great and reduce pain, making this a great way to manage everyday aches, pains and stresses. Gentle exercise like swimming, BodyBalance or yoga can also help you get in the ‘flow’ and melt that stress away.
A workout can help you sleep like a baby.
Regular and consistent exercise can lead to improved patterns and duration of sleep, even offering benefits for insomniacs over extended periods. Why does that matter? Because a lack of quality sleep is believed to contribute to depression and anxiety and vice versa. Sticking to a fun, varied and regular workout routine could help you get deep REM sleep and the benefits that this brings.
Exercise can even help boost your memory.
But not all types. A University of British Columbia study found that regular amounts of aerobic exercise can actually increase the size of your hippocampus, which is used for learning and verbal memory. This seemed only to apply to exercise that gets the blood pumping around your body, so be sure to mix up your workouts with running, dancing, walking or swimming to maximise that brain function!