WEB DESK: Research has long supported the benefits of exercise, from weight control to reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and even cancer. Regular workouts strengthen your bones and muscles, increase your flexibility, and help you stay active and mobile as you age, helping you live longer.
Exercise’s effect on mental health and mood is no exception—it’s as effective in treating minor depression as therapy and prescription drugs. The mood-enhancing benefits apply for everyone. Here are 10 ways:
1. Exercise can help you think more clearly and make better decisions
Exercise activates a part of your brain called the ventral prefrontal cortex, which is important for decision making and emotional processing.
2. Exercise can help reduce negative moods
In addition to helping us make decisions, the ventral prefrontal cortex processes negative emotions like fear and helps us decide whether certain situations are risky or not. Frequent exercise helps you better process negative emotions so you can stay focused on the positive.
3. Exercise helps you resist stress
People who exercise can more effectively deal with stressors in their environment. Frequent exercise actually alters a part of your brain called the dorsal raphe nucleus. This part of the brain is responsible for mood regulation (via one of the neurotransmitters it produces, called serotonin) and for alerting you to the presence of stress in your environment (via another neurotransmitter called Substance P).
7. Exercise helps reduce pain
Everyone knows about the “runner’s high,” a feeling of pain reduction that accompanies lengthy bouts of exercise. Research suggests that you don’t have to run marathons to see the pain-reducing benefits of exercise—even low-impact activities like water aerobics can help reduce pain.
8. Exercise increases body satisfaction
People who exercise usually report increased body satisfaction immediately following exercise. Those who work out generally report lower levels of body dissatisfaction compared with infrequent exercisers.