We all know it’s important to exercise.
The CDC recommends adults get two and a half hours of moderately intense activity — like briskly walking or riding a bike — each week.
But finding the time and energy to do it can be a struggle: Nearly 80% of adults don’t meet these basic fitness goals.
You might be familiar with the physical benefits of regular workouts, but the psychological ones are equally important.
Here are some of the biggest psychological benefits of exercise, which we compiled using research from the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP):
1. It lifts your mood.
Research has shown that regular exercise can help give your mood a boost. Several recent studies suggest that, whether you lift weights or go for a run, working out can help reduce anxiety and improve overall mental health.
A recent study of 8,000 Dutch people between ages 16 and 65 found that, in general, people who exercised regularly “were more satisfied with their life and happier than non-exercisers at all ages,” the authors wrote in their paper.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has also said that exercising can help make you feel happier — and in some cases the results can be felt pretty quickly. “The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong,” Boston University psychology professor Michael Otto told the APA. “Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”
2. It reduces stress.
Working out can help reduce overall stress levels, as well as improve your ability to cope with and respond to mentally taxing situations.
“Exercise may be a way of biologically toughening up the brain so stress has less of a central impact,” said Otto.
3. It boosts your confidence.
In addition to lifting your mood, regular exercise can also help support a healthier body image, according to a growing body of research.
Whether it’s a result of physically changing your body or being proud of completing a set amount of exercise, the positive effects of establishing a workout routine can translate into increased self-satisfaction, the AASP reports.
4. It helps you sleep.
And as we all know, more sleep means more energy throughout the day. And regular workouts can help you keep a regular sleep schedule.
A recent study of young people found that those who worked out intensely in the evenings slept better than their peers who didn’t work out or who worked out less intensely. The ones who exercised more vigorously also tended to fall asleep faster, wake up fewer times throughout the night, and sleep more deeply than those who exercised less vigorously.
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