Whenever you try to find some of the best life tips that have instant benefits, exercising is one of those tips that usually comes at the top.
Now, people tend to think that others exercise to have a "body summer" or to just "look good". However, exercising has by far greater importance than just the esthetics. Most importantly, exercising has an amazing benefit on your mental health. In this article, I will be highlighting the most important benefits that exercising has on your brain.
Exercising helps the control of emotions
The ability to control our emotions is a very important skill of cognitive control. Whenever you reign in an outburst of anger, or continue your day despite feelings of sadness, you are exercising emotional regulation which may or may not transform your good day into a bad one.
Scientists wanted to track changes in self-regulation. So they conducted a 2 month long study where participants are exposed to a program of regular physical exercise. The researchers noted a number of positive changes in behavioral patterns. Among these was a decrease in emotional stress and an increase in emotional control.
If you have a tendency to blow up at people or lose your calm, exercise can help you keep centered. This can make a huge difference in the daily life.
Exercising sharpens long-term memory
There is a strong link between regular exercising and improved memory.
One study found that 35 minutes of interval exercise on a bike strengthened long term memory. The timing of the exercise was important. Better memory was found for subjects who exercised four hours after learning. No benefit was seen for those exercising immediately after learning. Interesting right?
Another study split participants up into three groups. Each group was told to recall as much information as possible from two paragraphs. The first group received the information after exercise, the second before exercise, and the last completed no exercise. They found that the group that was exposed to exercise before being given the information performed significantly better at recall than the other two groups.
Exercising reduces stress and anxiety
This benefit is a well known psychological benefits and one of the biggest reasons why people start exercising. The science behind it is well documented, as well as it’s calming effect on a stressed mind.
First of all, exercising releases neuro-chemicals into the brain. The most important ones being endorphins, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals are associated with better cognitive functioning, alertness and elevated moods. In addition to dumping feel good chemicals into your head, it also helps purge stress hormones from your body – cortisol and adrenaline
From a psychological perspective, exercising gives a way to distract yourself from focusing on daily stressors. This could be from teachers, bosses, romantic partner (hopefully not) or any number of personal problems. When the mind has nothing else to focus on, it will drift. Many people can fixate on immediate issues, specific stressful problems, or strong emotional feelings. So exercise can simply give you an immediate task to focus your energy on.
So while this benefit of exercise is not a surprise, it is still one of the best, time tested reasons to get out there and get moving. exercise is an efficient stress management technique.
Exercising is a very powerful weapon against depression
Depression is one of the most common mental conditions that affects people worldwide. It is also one of the biggest (direct or indirect) causes of suicide worldwide. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 16.2 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2016. This represents 6.7 percent of the U.S. adult population.
A large meta-analysis analyzed the effect of exercise on alleviating symptoms of depression. Two things were found from the review. First, positive results from a significant and moderate relief from depression. The second result came from the comparison of exercise to other forms of psychological therapy or drugs. Exercise was found to be just as effective as the other alternatives.
I am pretty sure that for those taking pills everyday, it is time to review their decisions because exercising can be a much cheaper and equally effective way to treat their problems.
Exercising improves self-esteem
In psychology, the term self-esteem is used to describe a person's overall sense of self-worth or personal value. In other words, how much you appreciate and like yourself.
Self esteem is important if we want to live a happy life. Low self esteem creates stress, depression, and anxiety. Also, it can negatively impact our job and academic performance. If gone unchecked it can also cause a number of other unhealthy behaviors.
Exercise has been shown to affect self-esteem positively in all ages. From your development as a child up until the twilight years. A large quantitative review of 113 studies reported finding a change in self-esteem through exercise. In fact, the more physically fit one was, the higher one’s self esteem. One final result reported was that the type of exercise program could also affect the level of self-esteem.
Exercising improves sleep quality
Sleep is one of the major areas of efficient brain functioning. It has a direct effect on memory, self regulation, and cognition.
One study looked at adults that had numerous complaints about lack of quality sleep. The study examined several factors. Gender, age, and physical function were observed over a period of 12 months. The results found that adults that were the least active benefited most from exercise when it came to quality of sleep.
Exercise can do more than help those with insomnia or sleep disturbances. It’s good for normal healthy adults and adolescents as well. A meta-analysis found that total sleep time and fewer disturbances during the night were positive side effects of acute bouts of exercise.
It’s important to note, the relationship between sleep and exercise has had some varying results. A lot of the variation has occurred when subjects have known sleep issues such as insomnia. Typically, exercise in the long term has beneficial results. Certain variables like the type of exercise, duration, and intensity are still being explored to find the cause of certain types of research results.
Exercising increases productivity
Exercise impacts more than your academic or personal life. It can also have a positive effect on your professional life as well.
Over 200 white collar workers from 3 organizations were used to study exercise in the workplace. Researchers found that people reported several positive effects in the workplace from working out during their break or if they exercised before work. The benefits included better time management, better mood, and increased employee tolerance. On days were employees didn’t exercise, the benefits were not seen.
Another study from Bringham Young University looked at different factors that contributed to the loss of productivity in the workplace in almost 20,000 employees. Researchers found that people who exercised only occasionally or not at all were more likely to report lower productivity than employees who exercised regularly.
That's it for my article! Of course, exercising has much more benefits, but I chose to share this with you. Personally, I try to exercise at least 4 times a week, and that has amazing results. I strongly recommend everyone to do the same.
Ahmed Ahres, 23.