It isn’t just about how many push-ups you can do, or how fast you can do those hill sprints. Exercise has incredible benefits for your mental health…
Ever felt exhausted and demotivated before a workout? Then like a different person afterwards? That’s because exercise has as many amazing benefits for the brain as it does for your physical health, including the ability to make you feel incredible. Some of this comes from the production of endorphins, powerful feel-good brain chemicals which boost your mood and act as natural painkillers. But, there’s much more to it than that, as we discover…
1. Less stress
Feeling wired because of a work project or big deadline? Then get moving! A workout can relieve stress right here and now by lowering levels of your body’s chief stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol , while also producing those lovely endorphins we mentioned before.
2. More resilience
While we can’t get rid of stress completely, working out may also help you to cope with stress better in the future. Stressful situations and intense workouts trigger similar physical responses in our body – think pounding heart and increased blood pressure, for example. Because of this, scientists reckon that regular exercise trains the body to manage normal stress responses faster and more efficiently because you are used to it.
3. More positivity
Yep, we all know that a burst of exercise produces the brain chemical endorphin, making you feel happier. But exercise changes your mood for the better in other ways, too. For example, cardio workouts – like Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis Fitness HIIT workouts – boost blood flow to the brain while also increasing levels of the feel-good brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine.
These effects can help reduce your risk of developing depression, according to scientists , while relieving symptoms in people with mild to moderate depression or anxiety.
4. Sharper thinking
Adult brains are continuously producing new neurons in two particular parts of the brain – the first is associated with smell, and the other with memory, emotion and learning. But psychologists think that exercise actually helps our brains produce more neurons, so you actually have more grey matter in your brain. This boosts your memory and thinking skills, and helps you concentrate. Genius, or what?!
In the long-term, studies have found that the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain can protect against age-related cognitive decline and reduce your risk of getting dementia.
5. More self-esteem
Not so keen on your body? Scientists have found that regular work-outs improve your sense of self-esteem, which includes having a more positive body image. And you don’t need to be super-athletic to reap these benefits: apparently it’s the act of exercising itself that makes you feel good – not how many weights you lift or how fast you run.
6. Better energy
It might sound like exercising is the last thing you want to do when you’re completely exhausted, but getting your booty moving will give you a burst of energy – helping you feel better about yourself. It’s thought that the extra serotonin and dopamine in your body helps increase your energy levels, helping you feel less tired.
7. Sounder sleep
Poor sleep can affect your mood and ability to cope with stress, while impairing your memory and concentration. However, working out can help you get your sleep back on track by improving both the quality of your sleep and how long you sleep for , while also helping you fall asleep more quickly.
Exercising in daylight in the fresh air can also help your body reset its circadian rhythms – helping you feel sleepy at bedtime. Need inspiration? Try one of Jess' Jennis Fitness Outdoor Body Blasts .