The Amazing Effects of Exercise on your Mental Health
There’s an irresistible reason people become preoccupied with exercise—and it’s not as obvious as you might think.
Exercise tones up your physique, makes you look good. So, look good, feel good? Right? Yes definitely. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Exercise has amazing biological powers beyond a person’s reflection.
Exercise is thought to be as potent for mental health as antidepressants. What’s not to love about a natural happiness booster?
That’s not to say; only exercise if you’re depressed. Most of us, if we’re brutally honest, would like to be happier. We don’t feel depressed, but we look at those “exercising types” and wonder why they claim to be on top of the world.
Surely, they can’t feel that amazing? Aren’t they tired? Well science says otherwise—which is of course the best antidote for chronic scepticism.
Want to Get High? We’re serious.
In modern society this word has practically lost its meaning. It gets thrown around like a beach ball. I’m stressed, he’s stressed, she’s stressed, the dog is stressed. The cat is okay.
Being stressed is woven into our existence—caused by a high intensity way of life. Busy jobs, endless demands, big life events (good and bad). We’ve normalised stress. How are you feeling? I feel stressed. Don’t we all…
The thing is, stress is not good. In the long run it can have serious health impacts.
It shouldn’t be something minimised or brushed over. Life isn’t about to change around us, but we can sort it ourselves.
Regular exercise gets your endorphins going. These are chemicals released by your body to ease stress and pain. They have a similar effect to opioids—hence the “runner’s high”. In fact, the word itself is a combination of endogenous (‘having an internal cause or origin’) and morphine.
Essentially your body produces an opiate-like painkiller which relaxes your muscles and gives you feelings of euphoria.
I feel great this year!
Endorphins are not the only neurotransmitters released when you exercise. If you keep exercising it will increase serotonin levels in your body. Serotonin is more complex than endorphins and its effects are not fully understood.
What we know for sure is, amongst many possible functions, it helps to regulate our moods, sleep patterns, sexual desire, appetite, and digestion. Having too little serotonin makes us feel rubbish in general—mentally and physically.
If you’re depressed or anxious and go to a doctor, it’s (very) common to be prescribed an antidepressant. It’s likely this will be an SSRI—a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. These do not increase serotonin levels but stop spent serotonin being reabsorbed by nerve cells. This means there’s more serotonin left to go around.
Whilst not identical, exercise and antidepressants both help raise our base level of heath and improve our mood over long periods of time. However, exercise if possible, should always come first—after all it’s natural.
Focused with clear thoughts.
One American study by the University of British Columbia found that exercise increased the size of the Hippocampus. This is the part of the brain responsible for verbal memory and learning. Although the study was conducted with older people, it is still universally relevant.
We all have days where our head is foggy. Exercising can not only get rid of cloudy brain days but give your thinking a heightened clarity.
Put simply, exercise stimulates growth factors. These are chemicals in your brain that help maintain healthy brain cells, increase cranial blood flow, and with the creation and retention of new brain cells.
In addition to the above, there’s another way exercise affects your mind.
Taking a walk to clear the head—a well-known sentiment. It just works doesn’t it? We never question why. In the intense, over stimulating modern environment, exercise clears our head of the extra stuff floating around. It’s a singular activity, putting us in a zone, free from heavy thinking.
Therefore, after exercising everything seems simpler and more defined. Your head no longer feels cluttered and making decisions is easier.
Friends with benefits.
Exercising alone is fine, although it’s missing a key mental health benefit—gained from socialisation. Taking part in team sports, hitting the gym or the pool, comes with a possible social circle.
As humans we are born into a vast social group known as society and we’ve evolved to need regular contact with other humans. Socialisation is ingrained in our DNA. Exercising is a popular doorway to being social with others.
The health benefits of being social are staggering. It’s thought that being social vs not being social could help us live longer and reduce our chances of getting dementia.
Join the Glass House Experience
Socialisation, together with exercise, is a strong combination. You might already be miles ahead with this, which is great. If not—The Glass House is the perfect place to start. We have a range of fitness facilities, including a fully loaded gym, heated pool, and a beautiful naturally lit studio—with a diverse selection of effective classes.
Where we differ, from let’s say a leisure centre, is that we give you a complete wellness journey—from the food you eat to the way you think. During your stay, and afterwards, you’ll be part of a community of friendly people making a positive change in their lives.
Why go it alone? Become a part of something.
Our state-of-the-art detox and wellness retreat in Essex is opening very soon—save 20% by booking before October 2019.