Exercise and its mental benefits

We all know about the physical benefits of keeping fit but there are a number of mental or psychological benefits of exercise as well. Exercise can improve your mood, reduce anxiety and lower stress levels.

The rush of endorphins

Mood enhancer

Most of us have experienced a "runner's high" — the mood boost that you get during or after exercise. Aerobic exercise causes our body to produce endorphins. Endorphins are polypeptides that bind to the neuron-receptors in the brain, giving relief from pain and enhancing our mood. Endorphins are produced not just by exercise but can also be triggered by other activities including eating spicy food; deep, hearty laughter; meditation and deep breathing. Endorphins can relieve pain, boost mood, reduce stress, enhance the immune system and even help postpone the ageing process. So you have plenty of reasons to exercise... or at least eat plenty of hot peppers.

Stress reliever

Exercise can help relieve anxiety, stress and even depression. Group sports, running clubs, gyms and other activities can help improve these issues because they force you to socialise with other people. Exercise also helps because it's a distraction. When you are running or doing some other form of exercise, you aren't worrying, obsessing or stressing. You are just concentrating on the task in hand. People who exercise regularly are also less stressed because they fall asleep more easily and sleep sounder than those who don't exercise. Additionally, exercise improves blood flow to the brain and other organs, which can lead to better concentration, focus and problem-solving skills.

Confidence booster

Getting fit and healthy can be a great boost to your confidence. When you lose weight or get more toned, you feel better about yourself. You look better, your clothes fit better and you start receiving compliments from both friends and strangers. All these things can provide a big boost to your confidence and self-esteem.

Though the mental effects of exercise are mostly positive, don't overdo it. Over-training leads to fatigue — both mental and physical — which isn't good. Don't exercise yourself to the point of exhaustion. Instead, build up your stamina, strength, fitness and athleticism over time by regular, moderate exercise for 45 minutes to an hour each day.

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