A woman doing crunches at the gym because exercise affects mental health.

What do we know about how exercise affects mental health? Why is it important to move throughout the day?

Exercise affects mental health by releasing brain chemicals like endorphins and dopamine, and it also promotes mindful breathing, which is emotionally stabilizing. Knowing the benefits of exercise can help motivate you to take better care of yourself.

Read on to learn how exercise affects your emotional health and why it is important.

Taking Care of Your Physical Health

One element of groundedness is taking care of your physical health. We often neglect exercise when we prioritize success and productivity—to our detriment. But our bodies aren’t designed to sit for long hours, and seeing how exercise affects mental health shows why sitting so much is detrimental. For most of human history, humans were constantly on the move, and only in recent times have we become sedentary. This has resulted in many health problems, such as a higher risk of mental illness and chronic diseases.

The key to counteracting these negative health effects is to move your body frequently throughout the day. You don’t need to do strenuous or time-consuming workouts—come up with some simple ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. For example, you could take short breaks to walk or stretch.

(Shortform note: In Ikigai, Héctor García argues that the sedentary lifestyle of modern societies hinders healthy and graceful aging. García cites numerous health reasons for avoiding too much inactivity, adding that sitting even for five minutes can drop good cholesterol levels. Thus, he encourages you to find simple ways to stay active and specifically recommends you incorporate gentle physical exercises that also promote mindful breathing into your daily routine. This includes exercises like radio taiso, yoga, tai chi, and qigong.)

When you exercise regularly, you’ll not only improve your physical health but also your emotional and mental health. This is because your mind and body are connected. By staying physically active, you can boost your mood, increase your energy levels, and think more clearly and creatively.

(Shortform note: Neuroscience research shows that regular exercise improves your mental health by releasing a host of brain chemicals including endorphins, endocannabinoids, and dopamine—all of which boost your mood. In Brain Rules, John Medina adds exercise also increases blood flow to your brain, which boosts your memory and ability to focus and problem-solve.)

How Exercise Affects Mental Health and Why Moving Is Important

Becca King

Becca’s love for reading began with mysteries and historical fiction, and it grew into a love for nonfiction history and more. Becca studied journalism as a graduate student at Ohio University while getting their feet wet writing at local newspapers, and now enjoys blogging about all things nonfiction, from science to history to practical advice for daily living.

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