Vivage Explores the Benefits Exercise has on Mental Health

At any age, physical activity and exercise play an important role in overall health. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “more than 60 percent of U.S. adults do not engage in the recommended amount of activity.” When individuals refrain from physical activity, they are missing out on many health benefits.

Physical activity and exercise have been linked to providing mental health benefits. At Vivage, with senior living and behavioral health communities throughout Colorado and Missouri, we know the importance of mental health and the impact it has on individuals. Because of this, we have researched some of the benefits of exercise on mental health.

Sharpens Memory, Concentration, and Thinking

A recent study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, concluded that high intensity “aerobic exercise may enhance memory in older adults.” In fact, it was found that these intense aerobic workouts “significantly [boosted] memory function by up to 30%.”

This study tested the participants’ ability to recall memories without mixing up the details. “For example, if you meet two new people today, it is important to not mix up their names or personal information, or to remember that you took your medication yesterday rather than today,” says Jennifer Heisz, Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University.

Better concentration and thinking are part of an improved memory as individuals use concentration and thinking skills to recall memories. Furthermore, the endorphins released from exercise help improve concentration and mental sharpness for everyday tasks.

Although the most significant memory improvements were found in those who participated in high-intensity exercises, any physical activity intensity level can be beneficial and provide additional health benefits beyond mental enhancements.

Reduces Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

When your mind is suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression, your body also suffers. Tight muscles, insomnia, and headaches are just a few possible symptoms. Physical activity can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, especially if you are mindful when exercising. 

Exercise “promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being.” Your body releases endorphins when you exercise. These endorphins send signals to your brain that tell it that you feel good. 

When you focus on your surroundings and the feeling of exercising, your mind gets relief from anxious or stressful thoughts, making you feel the benefits of exercise more potently and effectively.

Regulates Chemicals in the Brain and Improves Cognitive Function

Physical activity also helps to regulate the chemicals in the brain and improve cognitive function. A case-control study with 4,615 community residents “participating in the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, found that older subjects engaging in moderate to high levels of [physical activity] were less likely to develop cognitive impairment.”

Vivage-Brain Chemicals
The chemicals in our brains are responsible for how we feel both mentally and physically. Exercise regulates these chemicals and “stimulates the production of brain chemicals – dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.” The release of serotonin creates a calm, relaxing effect, while norepinephrine counters the effects of stress in the body. When the chemicals in your brain are balanced, your mind and body will feel healthy and sharp.

Reduces the Risk of Dementia

 “…the findings of three independent…studies indicate that [physical activity] may reduce the risk of dementia later in life.” However, exercise can still help individuals who have already been diagnosed with dementia. It’s been studied that, “regular physical activity delays the clinical progression of [dementia] by counteracting the effects of [dementia]-related brain pathology.” 

How does exercise do this? Physical activity increases the blood flow to the brain, which keeps existing brain cells healthy while promoting the production of new cells to form. This results in both increased memory and control thinking. 

Physical activity and exercise are important at any age, and it’s crucial to look out for our bodies and our minds equally. Any amount and any level of intensity of exercise can provide health benefits that impact the way you feel.

Vivage, with senior living and behavioral health communities throughout Colorado and Missouri, implements activities that encourage residents, individuals, and guests to get active. We invite you to visit our website to find a community that suits your own unique health needs.


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