We all know that breaking a little sweat does wonders for our physical health, but there is increasing information about the benefits of exercise on our mental health. Research over recent years has discovered that simple exercise does wonders for things like stress reduction, managing depression, anxiety as well as other mental health issues.
But as the research continues to pile up, it’s important to know exactly why it helps.
With physical exercise we can visibly see how change takes place like reduced weight or bigger muscles. Improvements from a mental perspective aren’t so on the surface.
It goes back to the caveman days
When you start exercising, your body goes into stress mode. Our brains recognise this moment as either fighting an enemy or fleeing it aka fight or flight. As a defence you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor).
The good thing is that this BDNF protein works in two ways on our memory neurons – protection and repair. It acts as a ‘reset button’ and that’s why we get that moment of clarity and ease following exercise.
Here come the endorphins!
Endorphins are another reason we feel great after a bit of fitness. These chemicals are produced to minimise the pain of exercise or stress on the body, and are associated with feelings of focus, pleasure and greater clarity.
So while pumping iron at the gym might make our guns visibly bigger and stronger, it’s good to know it’s strengthening our minds from things like stress and pain at the very same time.