6 Awesome Benefits of Exercise on the Brain

group of people using elliptical machines at a Planet Fitness
Regular exercise can reboot your confidence and give you the self-esteem you need to tackle challenging tasks.

by Mary Lambkin

t's no secret that exercise can help improve your physical health and well-being, but did you know the mental effects of exercise can be just as profound? That's right fellow gym-goers, we're talking brains and brawn!

An increasing amount of research has highlighted the benefits of exercise on the brain, ranging from increased creativity to lower stress levels. Here are six reasons you should hit the gym to keep your brain just as fit as your body.

1. Mood Booster

The American Psychological Association examined the "mood-enhancement effect" of exercise and found that working out can lift your spirits in as little as five minutes — meaning a short stroll outside can be just what you need to cure a bout of the blues. Even more importantly, regular exercise can help combat long-term depression and anxiety.

2. Disease Fighter

Studies have shown that one of the benefits of exercise on the brain is a possible decreased risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer. A quick gym session every other day can increase blood flow to your brain — which helps boost brain cell production, and thus, improve brain health.

3. Confidence Builder

Regular exercise can reboot your confidence and give you the self-esteem you need to tackle challenging tasks. One recent report found that physical activity was associated with increases in study participants' self-esteem and perceived physical fitness.

Basically, everyone reported high levels of confidence after working out. So, no matter where you are on your fitness journey, a solid workout can help boost your self-esteem.

4. Social Catalyst

Exercise can also help build good social skills, which are ultimately linked to improved health and happiness. A University of Michigan study found that active children "are more likely to demonstrate good social skills, such as leadership and empathy, which can, in turn, influence healthy behaviors." If you ever find yourself feeling lonely, consider meeting a friend for a workout; you will likely enjoy a mental (and physical) boost.

5. Performance Enhancer

Want to land that promotion? Instead of clocking in an extra 30 minutes of work during your lunch break, try squeezing in a quick workout instead. The Harvard Business Review found that exercise — especially exercise completed during work hours — can increase your "mental firepower" by improving skills like concentration, focus and creativity. We're not saying a workout will necessarily land you that dream job, but it can't hurt!

6. Stress Buster

Numerous studies have proven that exercise helps reduce stress. It's a fact. As the Anxiety and Depression Association of America simply put it, "If your body feels better, so does your mind."

You can spend some time practicing self-care through a restorative workout like walking or jogging. Feel your stress melt away as you allow yourself to unwind through exercise.

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.