Everyone always tells me: ‘exercising is soooo healthy for you! And not only physical, but it will mentally improve you so much!!’. I always just nodded politely because I’ve heard and read it a thousand times, but today I wondered: why is exercising good for you, looking to the mental side? What is created while exercising that gives us certain feelings? So, in this article I will answer these questions and inform you on the most important changes while exercising.
But first: what is considered exercising?
In this article, I will mainly talk about ‘heavy’ exercising, like on purpose running (not running because your dog is sneaking out), doing a workout or for example swimming. But, things like daily walking (the stairs or the streets, you fill it in) and sleeping is also exercising. Because you are moving. But I think you understand that sleeping doesn’t have the exact same effect as working out (although sleeping does make me happy). So, when I’m talking about exercising in this article, I mean moving on purpose, meaning you want to reach a level of exercise where those effects, that I will talk about later, hit your body.
So, why is exercising good for you?
There are two ‘topics’. You could say they are ’cause and effect’. Let’s talk about the cause first. There are 3 chemicals that are mainly released during exercising. The first one is endorphins. These chemicals are released when your body is undergoing a vigorous and sustained exercise. But the good thing is, endorphins reduce pain, so also the pain that is caused by that exercise, meaning you can workout longer and your stamina increases. And endorphins also give you a feeling of euphoria, post-workout. The second chemical that is released while exercising is serotonin. These chemicals enhance your mood if you’ve been exercising for a little while. Meaning that they also reduce depression, but I will come back to that later. The third and last most important chemical that is being released when you are intensively moving, is Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, also known as BDNF. These chemicals reduce, same as the endorphins and serotonins, signs of unhappiness but it also improves memory and brain health, which makes it the only one of the three chemicals to have that as a main effect.
Now that we know the three main chemicals that are released while exercising, let’s talk about the effects. As you read earlier, it helps reduce signs of depression, stress and anxiety, as the chemicals lift up your mood and you feel happier. The endorphins diminish the pain, and the BDNF and serotonin brighten you mood. But besides this effect, working out also gives you a sense of reward and euphoria. You feel strong afterwards and as if you’ve really achieved something (not really as if, working out IS achieving something:). But besides the feelings that change, your memory, neural growth and brain functioning also improve. So working out 4 times a week can help you study for that test or remember the route to work!
There are way more positive effects to working out (reduces ADHD-symptoms, helps with trauma progressing) and there are more chemicals which are released (but mostly have the same effect as the three described, so bonus!), but if I would have to describe them all, you would be reading for quite a while so I’ll save you the time.
I hope this informed you enough, because it certainly did with me. I genuinely enjoyed writing this article because I got to read so many things about the ‘exercising and mental health connections’ that I never knew ‘existed’, to say the best. So hopefully I could transfer that knowledge to you!
If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to contact me!
Have a good day and don’t forget to walk the stairs instead of taking the elevator!