Two Mental Health Benefits of Exercising

And How A Fresh Perspective Can Help You Decide To Start

Photo by Jesse Martini on Unsplash

I can sit here and list off countless amounts of physiological benefits from exercising. Benefits that aren’t subjective assumptions but benefits that have been put under the microscope of scientists and researchers.

The physiological benefits can range from the unseen like the health of our hearts and also to the very much seen like bulging biceps or 6-pack abs. But, mental benefits are a bit different.

We know what someone looks like when they’re trying to lose weight. They’ve got their lunch in a Tupperware box, they carry around smoothies, and over time they shrink. But, what does someone who’s working on their mental health look like? It’s not always obvious what someone is going thru in their own mind. And since we can’t flaunt the equivalent of our minds six-pack abs to our friends, the mental benefits from exercising often get overlooked or dismissed entirely. The good news is that whether you dismiss mental health benefits or not, you’ll still find yourself profiting off of them. And the diversity of your profits is not single-sourced or in short supply, but today I wanted to narrow down the list and share two of the most important mental health benefits with you.

Increased Self-Esteem

According to current data, over 40% of people who are overweight are also suffering from depression. Y’know the late-night binge eating, nights of seclusion, and days where absolutely nothing will bring us out of our bed. Depression is a bummer. And our own self-esteem usually takes a backseat during this. But, we cannot continuously live in the dumps. It’s not good for us.

Several different kinds of studies based around women, men, people of color, people with low socioeconomic status, and many other demographics of people have consistently shown that exercising helps improve overall self-worth, self-esteem, and states of depression. Exercising seems to improve one’s state of mind for seemingly…everyone with higher self-worth reported to take hold just after a few weeks.

Now, I’m not trying to turn all of you into self-involved narcissists. But, there is a spectrum of self-worth. And being at the bottom end of the spectrum is not fun. Which is why I encourage everyone to feel and see what I am saying by going out and exercising. Jump on a treadmill, stationary bike, or go out for a walk, spend 30–60 minutes a day multiple times a week for several months, and things should start to change. Based on the science, this should be expected.

And being able to legitimately raise your self-worth thru difficulty and progress is why I am saying this is one of the top mental benefits of exercising. Now, let me tell you about the second.

Improvement in Hippocampus

Did you know our brains shrink? Let me repeat. Over time, our brains shrink!

That’s fucked!

After we turn 40, our brains will shrink at an average rate of 5% per decade. For the men out there, imagine if something else shrank at a rate of 5%? What would you do to change that?

Now what shrinks explicitly is our hippocampus which plays a major role in learning, memory, and spatial navigation — kind of important stuff. But there’s a way to stop it. Believe it or not things like cycling on a stationary bike, running, and even walking has shown to halt this shrinkage. This is not some pie in the sky claim. Both rats and human studies have shown that exercise will help retain the size of your hippocampus and positively affect your brain health currently and in the later years of your life.

Sure, you might want the aide of Alzheimer’s if you’re trying to forget about that abomination of a child you had. Y’know the one who took your entire 401k and dumped it into a cryptocurrency called Elonsucks. But, you’ll also want to be able to remember the password to your other bank account. And when sitting at home on retirement with nothing to do but do read, it’d probably be more enjoyable to be able to learn and retain new information. Which, is why preserving the size of your hippocampus and improving the circuitry of your brain is the second-best mental benefit from exercising.

So there you have it the two best scientific reasons to begin exercising.

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