Although Hippocrates suggested that walking is man’s best medicine, exercise has morphed into a popular tool for those looking to sculpt, firm, and create a body that is more in alignment with what our society defines as beauty. While some have chosen a well-balanced exercise regime for the health of it, most of us have used exercise (and maybe abused exercise) with the hopes of getting bigger, smaller, stronger, or better looking.
Interestingly, research is now suggesting that exercise may not only be important to physical health, but can also serve as a form of medication for many mental health challenges. More importantly, the dose of exercise appears minimal and easy to apply to the busiest of schedules. We are not just talking about the usual adage that exercise can elevate mood, but more specific mental health conditions that may call for medication and/or therapy.
Although we may be aware of the connection between exercise and mood, research has also determined that exercise can have a positive effect on negative emotions such as anger. Additionally, physical activity promotes a sense of social connection when exercising with others, an increased sense of mastery, and a heightened level of self-esteem.
Working out can have a positive influence on sleep (if you’re already a decent sleeper), with the effect increasing as exercise bouts became longer in duration. Finally, studies have demonstrated small, but significant, improvements in cognitive functioning among active older adults who increase their aerobic activity.