5 Psychological Benefits of Physical Activity

August 7, 2019

Physical activity helps keep us in good health and prevents all kinds of illnesses. Regular exercise is an excellent way to clear the mind, make smarter decisions, and feel better.

We’re used to thinking that the mind and the body are two distinct entities that don’t have much to do with each other. But that’s not the case. Body and mind shape each other and work together. They are not separate from each other at all. In fact, them working together is fundamental to our health.

Regardless our age or condition, researchers have discovered exercise has wonderful effects on how we learn and our emotions. Many psychological problems can be managed and treated with sports and exercise. Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits.

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.”

-Carol Welch-

1. Physical activity improves self-esteem

How is it possible for physical activity to affect something as internal as self-esteem? The reason is that doing things to take care of our bodies and pushing our limits also makes us see ourselves more positively.

a runner with headphones

After exercising, we get a sensation similar to the one when we meet a goal. That, in turn, increases the value we see in ourselves. In addition, physical activity improves our appearance in a relatively short time. Our skin looks refreshed, our body tones up, and all of that together makes us look more attractive.

2. It activates the happiness chemical

One of the effects that physical activity has on the brain is the activation of endorphin production. Endorphin is a chemical substance that acts as a neurotransmitter. Its job is to reduce physical pain (almost like medicine) and at the same time, create a feeling of happiness.

That’s why physical activity is highly recommended for those who suffer from symptoms of depression or are just feeling “down.” In fact, doing 15-20 minutes of exercise is extremely beneficial when we are feeling sad.

3. It reduces stress and anxiety

Physical activity is an excellent way to reduce muscular tension, which significantly impacts stress. On one hand, it serves as a distraction that calms us down and decreases anxiety. On the other hand, the recreational aspect of exercise and sports releases a lot of emotional tension.

a man in a gym doing physical activity

Physical activity also aids in the reabsorption process of cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone.” When we’re afraid, anxious, or upset, we have a significant amount of cortisol in our bodies. When we do physical exercise, our bodies process the hormone and stress goes down.

4. It protects us from cognitive decline

Not only do sports and physical activity have an amazing effect on our mood, they also have repercussions in our cognitive abilities. Regular physical activity increases various chemical substances in the brain. These substances prevent the degeneration of certain neurons in the hippocampus. 

In other words, exercise helps our brain keep working well as we age. Sedentary people are more likely to suffer from illnesses such as Alzheimer’s when they get older.

5. It helps us control addictions

Studies show that exercise is an excellent motivator for those who want to quit smokingIn addition to helping recover lung capacity, it also helps minimize withdrawal symptoms.

a girl exercising outdoors

These are only a few of the many extraordinary psychological benefits of exercise. As you can see, you don’t have to become a professional athlete. Just try to aim for 15-20 minutes of exercise a day. If that isn’t possible, try half an hour three days a week. We’re positive you’ll see the effects in no time.