6 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

1) Raise endorphin levels

Endorphins are brain chemicals that create feelings of euphoria. Exercise releases endorphins as well as sex, certain foods (chocolate, chili peppers), stress, and pain.

2) Decrease stress and anxiety

Exercise triggers the release of endorphins which generate happy feelings. Physical activity also increases norepinephrine, a stress hormone that strengthens the mind and body's response to stress.

3) Improve memory and cognition

Exercise raises levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein involved in learning and memory. Exercise also increases the production of new nerve cells (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in forming and storing memories and emotions.

4) Improve sleep

Exercising 3 to 4 hours before bedtime is a natural sleep remedy.  Exercise increases the core temperature of the body.  Following a workout, the body's core temperature returns to baseline, signaling that it is time for sleep. Disrupted sleep is often seen in many psychiatric conditions including depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

5) Boost self-confidence

A svelte physique, big muscles, weight loss, improved flexibility and strength - these are obvious benefits of regular physical activity. Even outside of these well-known benefits, exercise boosts self-esteem, self-confidence, and one's general feelings of attractiveness.

6) Increase pain tolerance

Similar to strong opiate pain medication like morphine and codeine, endorphins decrease pain perception without the devastating effects of addiction.