The Brain-Boosting Benefits of Exercise
Regular exercise is good for your mind and enhances your mental health.
You probably know that regular exercise reduces your risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease while helping to keep your weight in check. But research shows that the psychological perks exercise provides can be just as powerful.
Here’s an update on some of the brain benefits attributed to physical activity.
Exercise Improves Sleep
If you want to hit the pillow harder at night, try hitting the gym. Exercising during the day can help you sleep better. And when you sleep better, you’ll feel better when you’re awake.
Physical activity makes it easier for you to fall asleep at night, and may help you sleep more soundly—giving you better quality sleep. Getting enough sleep helps your brain work properly—it can help you be more creative, learn new things, pay attention, make decisions, get along with others, solve problems, and control your emotions.
Exercise Helps Keep You Sharp
You can’t stop the clock, but exercise can help keep your mind working in tip-top shape as you age. Regular physical activity keeps your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp.
In fact, a study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that moderate exercise improved brain activity in areas important for learning and memory. Decreases in glucose metabolism in the brain are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, but researchers found that among late middle-age adults, moderate physical activity was linked with increased glucose metabolism in areas of the brain that are commonly affected by the disease.
To keep your brain sharp, especially as you get older, keep moving. Aerobic exercise or a mix of aerobic and strength-training activities three to five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time can give you mental health benefits.
Exercise Relieves Stress
If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you may feel like you don’t have time to exercise. But squeezing in a workout may be just what the doctor ordered.
When you’re exercising, your body releases chemicals that help improve your mood and make you feel more relaxed. This can help relieve stress and even reduce your risk for depression.
If you feel stressed, try taking a walk. Just a 30 minute walk can help boost your mood and reduce stress. You can also try exercise programs designed to help cope with stress, like yoga or tai chi.