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Moves to Boost Your Mood: 6 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Author: Jess Abercrombie

We all know that exercise is great for our bodies. Whether it’s a long run, a new PR in the gym, an intense sporting event, or hiking a new trail, moving our bodies often leaves with many signs of positive physical stress and growth. However, did you know that there are other ways in which your day can improve after a good workout?

The post-exercise high can often leave you feeling re-energized, with a newfound sense of motivation and enthusiasm to take on the rest of the day! And this isn’t just a strange coincidence. The choice to bring more movement into your life offers many cognitive, emotional, and mental benefits, that contribute to a holistically improved well-being.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which movement can boost your mental health and make you feel like a superhero!

1. Boost brain power

Regular exercise promotes the production of BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which is a neurotransmitter involved in brain growth and cognitive function #NoomNerdsLoveScience! Not only are you building muscle, endurance, and power, but you are also building stronger brain cells!

2. Increase self-esteem

The natural progression that happens as you solidify your exercise routines and habits can help to strengthen your self-esteem and improve self-image. Each time you run a little farther, swim a little faster, lift a little heavier, you feel more confident which can positively affect your mental health.

3. Improve sleep

Getting your heart rate up and utilizing more energy during your workouts will need to be balanced out with adequate rest. Increased exercise within your routine often leads to improvements in both sleep quality and quantity. Your body needs this time to rebuild, repair, or recharge, and can also lead to…

4. Enhance mood

A person who is getting enough rest is often much more pleasant than someone who is tossing and turning at night!  However, this improved sleep routine is not the only way in which exercise improves moods. Exercise also produces endorphins, which are “feel good” hormones that help to create the powerful, confident, and happy post-workout feeling. Some of these endorphins also contribute to…

5. Decrease stress levels

The mood-boosting effects of increased endorphins and norepinephrine levels in the brain allow you to more efficiently manage stress. Combined with the mood-regulating effects of both dopamine and serotonin, these neurotransmitters work to find balance and regulate both anxiety and depression through exercise.

6. Enjoy time with yourself

Taking an hour out of your day to disconnect, and care for your body and mind with exercise offers a much needed moment of solitude (or community if you prefer group classes!). Using this time to step back from work and family tasks, and focus on YOU, can help to recenter your mind and find a moment of peace!

These are some of the ways that our cognitive and mental health can improve through exercise and it is clear that all of the benefits are inter-connected and build off of one another. Taking care of your body also means taking care of your mind (and vice-versa!). So find something that moves you and start building stronger minds, bodies, habits, and lives!