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Body & Mind: The Mental Benefits of Exercise

We all know it’s important to stay physically active – it keeps the body limber, helps maintain a healthy weight and aids in the lowering of cholesterol. But exercise benefits the mind in fascinating ways, too. Here are some of the reasons why keeping active is good for your mental wellbeing – all the more reason to find and stick to a sport or activity you enjoy.

Eases depression

Studies have shown that exercise can ease depression, in fact in some mild cases it has the same effect as antidepressant medication. It stimulates the brain, promoting feelings of wellbeing, and also helps create routine and structure.

Reduces stress

Physical activity helps the body unwind, relieving tension in the neck, shoulders and back. The likes of yoga and meditation help the mind focus on the present moment, rather than worrying about future tasks, work commitments and deadlines. Even ten minutes of yoga or gentle stretching in the morning will set you up for the day.

Aids memory

Endorphins released while exercising stimulate the growth of new brain cells and increase levels of concentration and memory. This is why it’s especially important to stay active as we grow older.

Increases self-esteem

Meeting exercise goals – even small ones – fosters a sense of self-worth and achievement. As this new habit forms and the body gets in shape, confidence and self-esteem continue to build too.

Helps grow your social circle

Joining a running club or sports team will introduce you to a whole host of like-minded people of all ages. As such, it’s a great way to make new friends who’ll encourage you to continue with your new hobby.

With all these amazing benefits in mind, why not try a new activity if you haven’t already got a fitness routine in place? You’re more likely to stick to something you enjoy, so don’t feel you have to join a gym or go running if they don’t appeal. There are lots of options out there, from dance and zumba to yoga and Pilates. Figuring out which one you enjoy most is all part of the fun!