My latest article for Sports Nutrition Supplement Guide is on the impact that fitness goals can have on every aspect of your life. You can see the original post via the link below, or read the article here as well.
You may already be immersed in a fitness plan which enhances your physical strength and flexibility, improves performance, and keeps your physique in tip-top shape. But being physically fit confers a multitude of mental benefits which you might not be aware of. As a matter of fact, the link between physical health and mental health is so strong that people who brush off regular exercise as a time-consuming task are depriving themselves of optimal health and well-being.
Simply by engaging in 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 3 to 4 days per week, you can help manage or even prevent mild depression and anxiety through the release of endorphins in the brain. In addition, regular exercise increases energy levels, enabling you to power through a busy day more efficiently. Individuals who exercise regularly also tend to enjoy more restful sleep.
Those of you who hit the gym or engage in other types of physical activity several days per week may also have noticed that simply by being in an exercise environment, your worries and negative thoughts have a tendency to melt away, lending a lot of validity to the phrase “iron therapy”. The sense of community which exists within gym settings or other events (such as 5K races, mud runs, rock climbing events, and other activities) can also be a very effective means of eradicating any feelings of loneliness or isolation.
People who struggle with depression are more likely to be sedentary, and levels of GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine tend to be much lower than in people who work out regularly. Conversely, levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, tend to be higher in sedentary individuals who suffer from chronic depression and anxiety. A study by the University of California San Francisco determined that women who exercised for 45 minutes over a 3-day period showed fewer signs of cellular aging compared to their inactive counterparts. Other studies have demonstrated that as little as three hours of regular exercise each week can reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate depression as effectively as pharmaceutical antidepressants.
Regular physical activity also benefits cognitive function. Researchers have discovered noticeable physical differences between the brains of people who engage in regular exercise when compared to inactive people. Several studies have found that the hippocampi in fit individuals is much larger. Why is this important? Because the hippocampus is largely responsible for spatial memory, and it is also one of the first regions in the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s related damage. Exercise also boosts levels of growth factors in the brain which are responsible for higher cognitive functions such as concentration, attention, memory and learning.
Lastly, regular exercise boosts self-esteem and improves body image, contributing to a greater sense of well-being and confidence. Think of how exciting it is when you reach a training goal, such as increased strength or flexibility, weight loss, or a positive change in body composition.
In summary, when you train your body through regular exercise, you also boost brain health and create a greater sense of overall well-being.