Many people exercise to get a better figure or to enjoy good physical health. But did you know that exercise 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, studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. Yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners. 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. 10 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise 1. Reduce Stress Rough day at the office? Take a walk or head to the gym for a quick workout. One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain\u2019s response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty. Working out can reduce stress and boost the body\u2019s ability to deal with existing mental tension. Win-win! 2. Boost Happy Chemicals Slogging through a few miles on the \u2018mill can be tough, but it\u2019s worth the effort! Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. For this reason, doctors recommend that people are suffering from depression or anxiety or those who are just feeling blue pencil in plenty of gym time. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Don\u2019t worry if you\u2019re not exactly the gym rat type. Getting a happy buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood. 3. Improve Self-Confidence Hop on the treadmill to look and more importantly, feel like a million bucks. On a fundamental level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person\u2019s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth. How\u2019s that for a feeling of self-love? Image from stock.adobe.com 4. Enjoy The Great Outdoors For an extra boost of self-love, take that workout outside. Exercising in the great outdoors can increase self-esteem even more. Find an outdoor workout that fits your style, whether it\u2019s 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 can lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Don't forget to wear your sunscreen when you are facing the heat. Why book a spa day when a little fresh air, sunshine and exercise can work wonders for self-confidence and happiness? 5. Prevent Cognitive Decline It\u2019s unpleasant, but it\u2019s true \u2014 as we get older, our brains get a little hazy. As ageing and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer\u2019s kill off brain cells, the noggin actually shrinks, losing many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet can\u2019t \u201ccure\u201d Alzheimer\u2019s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45 Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning. 6. Alleviate Anxiety Quick Q&A: Which is better at relieving anxiety \u2014 a warm bubble bath or a 20-minute jog? You might be surprised at the answer. The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Hopping on the track or treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety sensitivity. And we thought intervals were just a good way to burn calories! 7. Boost Brainpower Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells calls neurogenesis. It could also improve overall brain performance. Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning. Smartypants, indeed. Image from stock.adobe.com 8. Sharpen Memory Get ready to win big at Go Fish. Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases the production of cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning. For this reason, research has linked children brain development with the level of physical fitness. But exercise-based brainpower isn\u2019t just for kids. Even if it\u2019s not as fun as a game of Red Rover, working out can boost memory among grown-ups, too. A study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults. 9. Help Control Addiction The brain releases dopamine, the \u201creward chemical\u201d in response to any form of pleasure, be that exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol. On the bright side, exercise can help in addiction recovery. Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings. Working out when on the wagon has other benefits, too. Alcohol abuse disrupts many body processes, including circadian rhythms. As a result, alcoholics find they can\u2019t fall asleep without drinking. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, assisting people in hitting the hay at the right time. 10. Increase Relaxation Ever hit the hay after a long run or weight session at the gym? For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body\u2019s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it\u2019s time to sleep. Exercise is one of those ways to combat mental health, but you must remember that to take a healthy diet as well. We sure hope these tips help you in any way as possible. For more tips and tricks on health issues, make sure to stay tuned to our blog. Don't forget to check out Motherhood.com.my for all your baby needs and more on our online store!