When it comes to improving our health, one of the best things we can do is exercise. There are many great physical benefits to exercise, such as improving strength, endurance and weight loss. Each of these are well known benefits of exercise, but that’s not all: there are many amazing mental benefits as well.
Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
The following are some of the psychological benefits of exercise:
Hitting a baseball, swinging a tennis racket, lifting weights and other exercises require concentration. This need to focus can be applied to other areas of your life as well.
Two important things happen while exercising: stress hormones are reduced and the production of endorphins is increased. Endorphins are “feel good” hormones that can help you feel better naturally. The reduction of stress is essential for good health.
Countless studies have shown that exercise improves sleep quality. Obesity, depression and other health issues have been linked to chronic sleep deprivation.1
Exercise can help boost confidence and increase self-esteem. As a person begins to see results from their hard work (weight loss, increase in strength, stamina, endurance, etc.) their sense of accomplishment can increase dramatically. These positive thoughts can translate into other areas of life as well, such as at work and in personal relationships.
Improves social skills
Exercise (especially team sports) can provide a sense of comradery for teammates. Communication between teammates and working together is critical for success. This can only occur by spending time together and uniting as one to achieve a common goal. These social skills are needed when dealing with others.
Children’s health benefits
Children who exercise at a young age are more likely to exercise and stay active as they get older. In addition, playing team sports can help young athletes make new friends, improve self-esteem and could improve academic performance as well. Exposing children to positive experiences such as athletics and sports at a young age can be beneficial in later stages of their development.
Help control addictions
Dopamine is a “feel good” chemical that can be produced when drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs. Dopamine can be addictive, which can cause some people to become dependent on these potentially dangerous activities. A key component of recovery is finding something healthy to replace the addiction. Studies indicate exercise can produce dopamine also, and can be used to help combat alcohol and substance abuse.2
Exercise has many amazing health benefits. While many people exercise to lose weight or get in shape, the mental benefits are just as impressive. By adding exercise to your daily routine, you are one step closer to improving your quality of life in many surprising (and much needed) ways.
1 Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28458924
2 Aerobic Exercise for Alcohol Recovery: Rationale, Program Description, and Preliminary Findings. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2829243/