We all know the physical benefits of exercise. Exercise improves body composition, hair, skin, and nail health. It also reduces your risk of many diseases. However, we often overlook the psychological benefits, and some of these can be even more important. Below are 10 important mental benefits of exercise that improve the quality of your life.
Self-Confidence and Self Esteem
I don’t think it’s any surprise that exercise can boost your confidence. In controlled studies, children and adolescents improved self-confidence after exercise . Anyone who has made a body transformation has felt the positive effects exercise has on self esteem. You look better, feel better, and are more confident in yourself.
For people with body image issues, exercise can help. Exercise is associated with greater satisfaction with shape/appearance and perceived fitness . We tend to beat ourselves up over how we look. We don’t like this or that about ourselves. The good news is that exercise will make positive changes to your body, and as a result, will improve the way you view yourself.
Exercise is significantly related to less anxiety and fewer depressive symptoms . Exercise has been prescribed to treat anxiety for generations. Intense exercise releases endorphins, which are “feel-good” chemicals. These chemicals, along with other neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, can lessen the effects of your anxiety.
Studies show that aerobic exercise plus counseling is more effective in the treatment of depressive disorders than counseling alone. In addition, the risk of depression is significantly higher for physically inactive individuals compared with regular exercisers . Those same “feel-good” chemicals that treat anxiety also have a positive impact on depression symptoms. Exercise can only help.
For people with cognitive impairments, exercise increases cognitive function . Your ability to think and react can be improved with exercise. Motor skills are improved and blood flow is improved to the brain. Exercise is effective in reversing or slowing age-related declines in motor performance and in speed of cognitive processing .
Addiction comes in many shapes and sizes. From food addiction to drug addiction, exercise can only help. Exercise has been shown to reduce cigarette cravings, and may prove useful for long-term maintenance of smoking cessation  . While the exact mechanism of this benefit is unknown, I’m sure the improved chemical balance of the brain from exercise plays a role.
Having issues remembering things lately? Our ability to remember things seems to diminish with age. We also tend to get less active with age. Do you see a correlation there? Aerobic exercise training increases the size of the anterior hippocampus, leading to improvements in spatial memory .
Research has shown that exercise is linked to a higher resilience of stress . It significantly lowers cortisol, heart rate, and state anxiety responses compared with untrained subjects. So, not only can you lower your current stress levels with exercise, but exercise can also help keep you from getting stressed in the first place.
Not feeling the creative flow lately? Maybe you have writer’s block, or maybe you’re having difficulty taking great pictures or creating new music. Well, exercise could be the answer for clearing those blocked creativity channels. Mood and creativity are improved by physical exercise independently of each other . In other words, regardless of whether you’re in a good or bad mood, exercise can improve your creativity.
Can exercise make you fall in love? It’s possible. Exercise can boost levels of the “love hormone” oxytocin . Oxytocin promotes positive intersocial relationships. Even just leisure activity such as walking or hiking can increase levels of oxytocin and promote the bonding experience. It’s no wonder people who share a fitness lifestyle stick together.