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How Does Exercise Affect the Brain? 10 Benefits of Exercise

When we set out on our fitness journeys, we tend to have one thing on our mind: beach body!

While there’s nothing wrong with that, and you should definitely let it motivate you, there are tons of other benefits of exercise that help you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Let’s talk about 10 exercise benefits that aren’t directly related to your physique, but will boost your overall quality of life in a big way.

1. An Outlet for Anxiety

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by heavy workloads, family problems and just a lingering sense of uncertainty about the future? Anxiety is all too common these days, but exercise can blast away at that nervous bundle of energy in your chest and offer real relief.

Science shows that regular exercise can diminish feelings of anxiety in adults, since you experience a rush of endorphins and enjoy a sensation of accomplishment that can’t be paralleled by sedentary activity.

If you can find a fun way to workout that takes your mind off things, even better. Try out dance classes, group aerobics or crossfit-style sessions that are more enjoyable than a 40-minute treadmill routine.

Identify anxiety triggers in your life and create systems that set you in motion when they pop up, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the block. Everyone’s different, so discover the workouts that keep you engaged the entire time and make you want to come back for more.

2. Alleviate Depression

When pressure mounts and things get tough, chronic anxiety can turn into a feeling of low-level depression. This condition affects millions of Americans each year, and needs to be taken seriously. It’s more than just being in a bad mood!

Luckily, exercise is one of the oldest and most proven ways to part those grey clouds overhead and take on a more sunny disposition.

First of all, exercise puts you back into the driver’s seat in life, making you feel in control instead of stagnating in a passive state of mind. Next. exercise sends a flood of feel-good chemicals to the brain, making the challenges of life seem more manageable. 

Finally, as you start to see those pounds melt away and muscles become more defined, you’ll certainly feel better about yourself and the progress you’ve made. Let the results motivate you further and stay focused on your goal, and depression will fade. Don’t quit!

3. Effectively Combat Stress

Anxiety and depression aside, stress can be an entirely different animal. A little bit of stress is actually good for us, since it motivates us to succeed and stay focused. However, things can get a bit out of hand and stress can mount up over time into a genuine burden.

The beauty of exercise is that it provides us a powerful, socially acceptable way to demolish stress while pushing our bodies and minds to the limit.

Some people hit the punching bag, others pound the pavement on long trail runs. Weightlifting and cardio machines are popular, but many fitness enthusiasts choose to avoid the gym entirely and opt for high-octane dance classes that fight stress with fun!

No matter how you decide to get moving, exercise is a top stress-killer, and is way better for you long term than relying on crutches like junk food, alcohol or reality TV. Try a wide range of different workouts and you’re bound to find one that fits your lifestyle and preferences.

4. Boost Energy Day to Day

When you’re struggling to stay in shape, daily activities like work, chores and errands can seem like insurmountable challenges. Whether you’re loading up groceries into the car or trying to stay on point at the office, energy is the currency that gets you through the day. 

Too many of us rely on energy drinks, coffees and caffeine pills for that extra boost in the short term, but pay a big price (not just monetarily) in the long run. That artificial, chemical motivation is not a sustainable solution, and it’s smarter to build your energy naturally through exercise, healthy habits and well-rounded diet.

While your first few days of a new health and fitness routine will feel like an energy drain, you’ll feel more amped up and motivated as your body adjusts in the following weeks.

If accountability is what you need, consider signing up for a 28-day challenge program that keeps you on track and taps into your competitive spirit. By staying the course for just four weeks, you’ll see noticeable improvements in your daily energy levels.

5. Improved Thinking and Cognition

When your body is flowing with positivity from a good exercise routine and healthy diet, the mind will follow. Expect sharper, quicker thinking that will help you navigate the challenges of work, relationships and personal goals.

Not only does exercise clear brain fog by increasing blood flow, it also trains your mind to overcome obstacles in new, inventive ways, rather than avoiding and deflecting them.

Unless you are constantly challenging your body and mind, you can’t expect expansion and development. More likely than not, you’ll see stagnation and decline. Both systems respond to new stimulus and progressive difficulty, so apply the same principles for best results.

That means avoiding getting stuck in the same old routines and switching things up more often than you think. Find a workout program that introduces new movements and varies the intensity every day so your body and mind never get bored, and always improve.

6. Quit Nicotine For Good

Trying to quit smoking without making other keystone lifestyle changes is a recipe for relapse. You want to overhaul your habits on every level to succeed in weight loss, muscle building, or whatever fitness goals you may have.

When you get that natural high from daily exercise and start feeling better in your own skin, you’ll start a virtuous upward cycle which will naturally build better habits all around.

Instead of reaching for that pack of smokes or chewing tobacco, you may be more inclined to bang out some pushups or a quick dance workout in the living room. Rather than relying on the vape in stressful moments, you may go for a jog and get fresh air instead. 

7. Enjoy Stronger Relationships

Way too many people view exercise as a grueling solo endeavor, but the truth is that the most successful workout routines involve the participation of people who will be there to show support and make progress alongside you in real time. 

Whether you hit the walking trail with family or friends, join a local sports league or enjoy a dance class online or in-person, there are tons of ways to get fit and connect with those close to you – or make new friends along the way!

8. Better, Deeper Sleep

There are few things more frustrating than trying to fall asleep after a long day, only to end up staring at the ceiling for hours as you count sheep and let random thoughts run wild.

By engaging in regular physical activity, you fully exhaust your energy stores and leave your body tired inside and out at the end of each day. 

Even 45 minutes of daily aerobic exercise can help you fall asleep faster when your head hits the pillow, and stay asleep for seven to eight hours without tossing and turning.

When you wake up the next morning feeling fully refreshed, you can take on your day with full confidence and the energy to take on the world. 

Just a few weeks into an exercise routine and you’ll find you need less coffee in the morning to get going, and less wine at night to wind down. You’ll finally tune into the natural circadian rhythm of the sun and moon, and sleep better than you can ever remember. 

9. Increased Libido and Performance

Being confident in your body is a must in the bedroom, so you can expect more after-hours fun once you start seeing the physical benefits of an exercise routine.

In addition to a healthier self-image, you’ll feel stronger desire for your partner as your hormone profile improves. Get ready for fireworks, because getting fit will fuel the flames of love!

10. Become More Spiritual

Everyone has a different spiritual life, but exercise can benefit people of every faith and help you feel more connected to the universe. 

Working out in the great outdoors is a great way to feel more spiritually fulfilled, and you can dabble in yoga if you’re curious about meditation and deep breathing. 

As you might imagine, that’s much healthier for your soul than running on the treadmill in a fluorescent-lit facility! 

It’s pretty simple: when you connect with nature and people you love, it’s going to have positive ripple effects throughout your entire life. 

Conclusion

There is so much more than meets the eye when considering the benefits of exercise. 

Shift your focus from strictly physical appearance to a more complete vision of health, and you’ll be more likely to stick with your routine for the long haul.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm

https://medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

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