by Janet Whyte, LCSW
It is no secret that regular exercise has numerous health benefits. Aside from the more obvious physical benefits, there are many ways in which exercise is found to improve mental health. Exercise is proven to help decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, improve the body’s ability to respond to stress, increase self-esteem, improve sleep, and improve memory. Recently, a study published in the Journal of Physiology found that six minutes of high-intensity cycling could delay the onset of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
Exercise releases endorphins, or “feel-good” brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of wellbeing and therefore reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. Exercise can help improve sleep, and this in turn has a positive impact on mood, attention, and memory. Additionally, mindfulness can be incorporated into your exercise routine as you pay closer attention to the feeling of your feet hitting the ground, the pace of your breathing, or the feeling of your muscles as they are working hard. When you are focused in on your body during a workout, this may help shift your focus away from any anxious thoughts.