Meditation in Motion: Exercise and Its Effects On Mental Health

There are plenty of great reasons to exercise; the confidence, mental fortitude, and stress relief it brings is something you can’t find anywhere else. And while the change in physique is often the end goal for many who partake in any rigorous activity, we shouldn’t understate the immense benefits that exercise and working out has on mental health.

So, let’s break it down and look into a few reasons why you shouldn’t merely workout to achieve a six-pack by summer, but do so to incorporate a consistent and healthy lifestyle that fosters mental health, clarity, and strength.

Thinking Fit

Studies suggest the parts of the brain that control memory and thinking have more volume in people who workout than people who don’t. In fact, neurologist, Dr. Scott McGinnis, has concluded that people who maintain an active lifestyle over the course of six months can develop more volume in certain regions of the brain—this is where it gets interesting. A decrease in brain size occurs by about five percent every decade after the age of 40. So, by maintaining an active lifestyle, you can essentially reverse the aging process of the brain.

When you exercise, you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which experts now think may help prevent the natural deterioration of the brain. And while the research is not conclusive, this process may help prevent neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Exercise and Stress Relief

Anyone who has endured any intense activity for any amount of time is aware of the incredible anxiety-eliminating benefits it has to offer. When you exercise, your body releases a chemical known as endorphins, which are essentially your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Popularly known as a ‘runner’s high,’ this sense of elation is found in any form of exercise that requires a pump up of your brain’s endorphins.

As you exercise, it’s important to focus on each movement and motion. This can help reset your brain and provide clarity and focus throughout the day. Have you ever felt stressed and went for a run, only to come back after with a newfound sense of mental toughness perspective? Think of it as something of a brain reset, and it’s vital an individual’s overall well-being.

Developing and sticking to a healthy lifestyle is not always easy, but it’s certainly worth it. The next time you are anxious or feeling overwhelmed, try going for a jog, lifting some weights, or hiking a trail. It may be the reset you need to keep pushing forward stronger than ever.

Joseph Benevento originally published this article on JosephBenevento.org

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