Many people join the gym to improve their cardiovascular health, to gain muscle or to have a body like a movie. However, there are other positive effects that we can achieve with the practice of regular physical activity, such as the psychological benefits .
Psychological benefits of doing sport: exercising is healthy for your mind!
Over the past decades, researchers have been discovering how practicing exercise can improve our cognitive functions , and regardless of age or physical condition, studies have shown that taking time for exercise also produces many benefits for our mental well-being . “Exercising regularly is good for mood, memory or learning,” explains psychiatrist John Ratey of Harvard Medical School, author of the book ” The New and Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain” .
If you are used to exercising daily or if you are one of those who have trouble putting on your tracksuit, pay attention to the following lines. Below, from Psychology and Mind , we present the 10 psychological benefits of exercise.
1. produces happiness chemicals
Running a few miles can be hard, but it’s worth it! Exercise promotes the release of endorphins , chemicals that produce a feeling of happiness and euphoria.
Studies have shown that they can even relieve symptoms of depression. For this reason, psychologists recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety improve their quality of life by including exercise in their lives. If you are not one of those people who engage in daily physical activity, exercising 3 days a week for half an hour can instantly improve your mood.
2. Reduces stress
After a hard day’s work, there’s nothing better than going off to play paddle, step in the gym or run on the beach. One of the psychological benefits of physical activity is that it reduces stress.
In addition, exercise also increases the production of norepyredrine (noradrenaline), a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. So put on your sports clothes and sweat a little bit, exercise improves our body’s ability to deal with the stress that comes with so much office work and everyday worries.
3. Improves self-esteem
Looking better physically will make you feel good. Continued exercise will improve your self-image and enhance your self-esteem. Regardless of weight, age or gender, physical exercise can raise the positive perception of one’s attractiveness , and consequently make you value yourself more.
4. Improve your social relations
As your perception of yourself and your emotional health improves, your social relationships may also improve . Because of your increased self-confidence you are more likely to reach out to others, and if you participate in guided classes or group sports, you can expect to meet new people.
5. Relieves anxiety
Neurotransmitters released during and after exercise can help people suffering from anxiety to calm down. A bike ride or some medium or high intensity aerobic exercise can reduce the symptoms that anxiety produces. Sport and exercise, therefore, do not only serve to burn fat or gain muscle.
6. Prevents cognitive impairment
As we get older, the risk of suffering degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s increases, especially after the age of 45. By doing physical activity mainly between the ages of 25 and 45, we manage to increase the brain chemicals that prevent the degeneration of the hippocampus neurons.
In addition, regular physical exercise, adapted to the demands of the elderly, is associated with a lower risk of mortality. Mainly, as a consequence of a cardiovascular protective effect, physical activity decreases the risk of suffering a cerebral infarction and improves cognitive function by reducing the risk of suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Improve your memory
Regular exercise improves your memory and ability to learn new things by increasing the production of hippocampal cells that are responsible for memory and learning. Research in this field positively relates children’s brain development to their physical condition.
This is not only the case for children, the elderly can also improve their memory by training. A study by Winter and Breitenstein (2007), showed that performing sprints improves vocabulary acquisition and retention in adults.
8. Increase your brain capacity
When you exercise your brain produces more neurons and more connections between them, a phenomenon known as neurogenesis. Therefore, your brain will gain shape and increase its ability to learn.
In research by Vaynman, Ying and Gomez-Pinilla , intense training was shown to increase levels of a protein known as BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) found in the brain, which is believed to positively influence decision-making, thinking and learning. To go deeper into this topic, we recommend that you read the article “5 tricks to improve your intelligence”, by psychologist Bertrand Regader .
9. Helps you be more productive
Research by Schwarz and Hasson (2011) concluded that workers who regularly exercise or play sports are more productive and have more energy than their sedentary peers.
In addition, if we go to practice sports at midday, during the lunch break, or before going to work, the activity will help us to be more active throughout the day, avoiding moments of slump or lack of attention at work.
10. Helps control addiction
The brain releases dopamine (the neurotransmitter of reward) in response to a pleasurable stimulus such as sex, drugs or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted and dependent on substances that produce their release in large quantities. Exercise can help in the recovery of the addict, as short exercise sessions have a positive effect on alcohol or drug addicts by delaying carving (at least in the short term).
Alcohol abuse also prevents normalcy in the addict’s life. A negative consequence of excessive consumption of this substance is that disrupts circadian rhythms , and as a result, alcoholics have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep if they do not consume alcohol. Exercise can help restart the biological clock and help you fall asleep.
In short, physical exercise is natural, easy, helps you improve your quality of life, increases your self-esteem, prevents illness and improves your learning. After reading this, will you still want to give up these benefits?
The colleagues from the Universidad Tecnológica de Ecuador have made a video in which they explain in an audiovisual way the psychological benefits of practicing physical exercise. Take a look at it: