Many people hit the gym or pound the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course, get a rockin’ bod, but working out has above-the-neck benefits, too. For the past decade or so, scientists have pondered how exercising can boost brain function. Regardless of age or fitness level (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships, and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.

Exercise helps people perform activities of daily life more easily. Physically fit people are stronger, healthier and more energetic than sedentary people. They are able to solve problems more readily, deal with stress more effectively, think faster and remember things more efficiently. Overall, activities of daily life become less of a chore for active people.
When stress isn't just stress, exercise can work wonders, too. There's a host of research proving that people with anxiety and depression can find major help in working out. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, regular exercise has been found to help with various anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and OCD. Celebrities, including Lena Dunham, have talked about about how a regular exercise program has helped with her anxiety.
For an extra boost of self-love, take that workout outside. Exercising in the great outdoors can increase self-esteem even more The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. Pretty J, Peacock J, Sellens M, Griffin M. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, UK. International Journal of Environmental Health Research. 2005 October;15(5):319-37.. Find an outdoor workout that fits your style, whether it’s rock-climbing, hiking, renting a canoe, or just taking a jog in the park. Plus, all that Vitamin D acquired from soaking up the sun (while wearing sunscreen, of course!) can lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Why book a spa day when a little fresh air and sunshine (and exercise) can work wonders for self-confidence and happiness?

Exercise acts as a temporary diversion to daily stresses and it improves self-esteem. Increased core temperature during exercise may lead to reduced muscle tension and favourable alterations in brain neurotransmitters. Mood improvements may also occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates, e.g. endorphins. Psychological changes may occur because of changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety levels. 

To do the Scapular Wall Hold Reps, stand with your back relaxing against the wall and your feet about six inches away. Bend your arms and drive your elbows back into the wall. With your body in a nice straight line, drive off the wall with your elbows, pressing your chest out and pinching your shoulder blades down and back. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes so your body moves as one unit.
Exhale and use your triceps to lift the weight until your right arm is fully extended behind you. Supinate by turning your palm up as your arm moves back, so that your palm faces the ceiling. Move only your forearm and do not use your left hand or your legs. Pause once your right arm is fully extended, inhale, and then exhale as you bring the free weight back to the starting position.
Getting your workout in can also improve your sleep. In one study of 2,600 subjects, people who exercised at least 150 minutes a week reported a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality as well as better energy levels during the day, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And there's nothing more heavenly than a solid night of sleep (and nothing more rewarding after a tough workout during the day).
And research published in November 2017 in the journal NeuroImage showed that aerobic exercise may be helpful in improving memory function and maintaining brain health as we age. The study, led by researchers at Australia's National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University, looked at brain scans of 737 people ranging in ages from 26 to 76. The group included a mix of healthy adults, people with Alzheimer's and other cognitive impairments, and people with a clinical diagnosis of mental illness, including depression and schizophrenia. The researchers found that exercises, like riding a stationary bike, running on a treadmill, or walking, slowed down the deterioration of brain size and slowed the effect of age on brain health.
© 2019 Condé Nast. All rights reserved. Use of and/or registration on any portion of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement (updated 5/25/18) and  Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement  (updated 5/25/18). SELF may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. Your California Privacy Rights. SELF does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.   The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. Ad Choices 
Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, toes angled out slightly. Keep your core engaged as you hinge at the hips, lowering into a sumo squat position while simultaneously keeping the hands positioned in front of the chest. Release the hands to the floor and jump or step back to a high-plank position; be sure to maintain a neutral spine. Reverse the squat thrust, jumping or stepping feet back toward the hands and rising up to the starting position. Complete a total of eight to 10 reps. 
Strength training, whether you’re lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises or incorporating yoga moves, helps improve muscle strength and muscle mass, particularly important as we age. (8) It also keeps bones strong, thus serving as a great natural treatment for osteoporosis. Plus, increased muscle helps your body burn calories more efficiently long after your workout is over.
Exercise acts as a temporary diversion to daily stresses and it improves self-esteem. Increased core temperature during exercise may lead to reduced muscle tension and favourable alterations in brain neurotransmitters. Mood improvements may also occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates, e.g. endorphins. Psychological changes may occur because of changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety levels.
10. It enhances emotional well-being. Most people report that they feel calm and have a sense of well-being after they exercise. Exercise, according to one theory, releases beta-endorphin, a natural substance in the body that is hundreds of times more potent than morphine. Another theory points to serotonin as the cause of the exercise high. Increased levels of serotonin in the central nervous system are associated with feelings of well-being, heightening of appetite, and lessening of mental depression. The weight loss that accompanies exercise can also cause people to feel better about themselves.
My name is Julie and I am a full-time blogger, new mama, fitness enthusiast (certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor) and food fanatic (mostly healthy... but also not-so-healthy) living in North Carolina with my husband, dog and baby boy. Thank you for visiting Peanut Butter Fingers! I hope you enjoy little glimpses into my life and have fun trying the sweaty workouts I frequently share and making some of my favorite recipes along the way!
Pushups are a challenging bodyweight exercise that develops the triceps, shoulders and core. Aim to do as many pushups as you can in one session for a total of two to three sets with rest in between. You can modify a full pushup position by starting on your knees rather than your toes. Do pushups by lying face-down on the floor. Prop yourself up so that you are on your hands and knees, with your body forming a straight line from head to toe. Your hands should be underneath your shoulders. Keep your abdominals engaged as you lower toward the ground and push back up into start position.
Then, step your left foot directly behind you (about 2 feet) and bend both knees to lower into a reverse lunge, creating two 90-degree angles with your legs. In this positioning, your shoulders should be directly above your hips and your chest should be upright (not leaning forward or back). Your right shin should be perpendicular to the floor and your right knee should be stacked above your right ankle. Your butt and core should be engaged.

In case you’re curious, I’ll take a quick minute to share a little bit about who I am, my experience with struggling with my weight, what I did about it, and my purpose for helping folks all over the world do the same... I've found that what brings me the most happiness are the real people with real lives I've helped, as they email me about the success they've had using my techniques... read more
I wanted to eat Tortilla chips with nacho cheese dips for the second time in my life (in fact its probably the first time because its been so long that i dont even remember if that was even a cheese that i used as dips). You convinced me not to eat it. just ran for like 20 minutes ad burned about 250 to 300 calories about two hours earlier too. kind of feeling bad for not eating the cheese.

For the greatest overall health benefits, experts recommend that you do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. However, if you are unable to do this level of activity, you can gain substantial health benefits by accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity a day, at least five times a week.

If you struggle with a touch of fatigue, exercise might be just what the doctor ordered. According to a study from the University of Georgia, the blood flow benefits from exercise help carry oxygen and nutrients to muscles, which helps them produce more energy. They found that even low-to-moderate intensity exercise for just 20 minutes a day, three days a week for six weeks can help with that can't-keep-my-eyes-open feeling.

Stretch your arms to the side and bring them back to your front, the right hand should overlap the left. This resembles an open scissors. You need to stretch them to the side again and bring them back to the front. This time your left arm should overlap your right. This is a complete rep and this exercise needs to be done in 3 sets of 10 reps every day.
To do tricep push ups, place your hands underneath your shoulders on an exercise mat. Make sure your fingers are spread wide and weight is distributed evenly between the 2 hands. Squeeze your abdominal muscles and straighten your legs behind you, coming up on the balls of your feet. Activate your leg muscles and push out from your heels. Your body should feel well supported and your lower back should be straight, not dipping or swaying from side to side.
A study published in October 2017 in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggested that even just one hour of exercise of any intensity each week can help prevent depression. The study monitored levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety in 33,908 adults over 11 years and found that even small amounts of physical activity had a protective effect against depression, regardless of the person’s age or gender.
To do the Row Push Up, set up in a high plank position with your feet about hip-width apart and your hands outside your chest (beginners can do this from their knees). Then perform a push up, lowering your chest to the ground as your body moves as one unit. Do not let your butt go up in the air or your head jut forward. Also, make sure your arms create an arrow shape (–>) with your body instead of flaring way out.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication or have a medical condition.
My name is Julie and I am a full-time blogger, new mama, fitness enthusiast (certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor) and food fanatic (mostly healthy... but also not-so-healthy) living in North Carolina with my husband, dog and baby boy. Thank you for visiting Peanut Butter Fingers! I hope you enjoy little glimpses into my life and have fun trying the sweaty workouts I frequently share and making some of my favorite recipes along the way!
The skin also serves as a release point for heat. (See “Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?” for more on that.) When you exercise, your muscles generate a lot of heat, which you have to give up to the environment so your body temperature doesn’t get too high, Hackney says. The heat in the muscle transfers to the blood, which shuttles it to the skin; it can then escape into the atmosphere.
×