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What are the Mental Benefits of Exercise?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 17, 2024
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People commonly focus on the physical advantages of exercise. They tend to view physical activity as a means for weight loss, strengthening, or toning. There are, however, mental benefits of exercise. These include increased brain functioning, mood enhancement, and increased learning potential.

Sedentary living has been connected to decreased functioning of the brain. This is especially true when people move into the latter stages of life. For the brain to function properly, it needs sufficient supplies of blood and oxygen. When a person exercises, the amount of blood that flows to the brain tends to be increased. The amount of oxygen that the body takes in is also generally increased.

Not only can mood be positively affected by exercise, but mental abilities such as critical thinking and learning capabilities can also be affected. When a person exercises, numerous things happen in the brain. To begin with, hormones that affect mental functioning are generated. Regular exercise, therefore, provides the body with a steady supply of these helpful chemicals, which can help to prevent the types of imbalances that often lead to mental disorders.

For example, many people suffer from depression. It is believed that these individuals could benefit from physical activity. Research has shown that one of the mental benefits of exercise is its mood enhancement abilities. These abilities have been shown to exist even when the problem is a psychological disorder such as depression.

Another of the mental benefits of exercise is that it increases the amount of activity of neurotransmitters. These chemicals are responsible for functions such as transmitting signals within the brain and helping the brain to process information. When these activities are enhanced, the result is generally improved mental function.

Exercise can also help a person improve her self image. People who are introverted, shy, or not confident can benefit from physical activity. As their physical abilities and appearance change, their ideas about themselves may also change. The results can include a person becoming more assured of herself and more apt to participate in relationships and activities that she may have avoided if she were not exercising.

Experts believe that it is never too late to begin showering the mind with the mental benefits of exercise. It is believed that a person can experience the positive mental benefits of exercise at any stage in life. This means that if an individual has not been in the habit of exercising and she starts in her golden years, she is still likely to experience positive effects from her physical activity.

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