With work and every other thing we have going on in our lives, it can be hard to muster the motivation to hit the gym. If you’ve started hitting snooze rather than spending those 20-30 minutes at the gym, research suggests it’s more important than ever to work out if you want to reap the emotional benefits of exercise. You don’t need to be a hardcore athlete to capitalize on the brain-boosting benefits of exercise. Research has shown that the first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk—all those things come in during the first 20 minutes of being active. Here’s why you should set your alarm early tomorrow and hit the gym.
- Your Mood Will Improve
You may not feel like exercising when you’re stressed, but that’s the best time to sweat it out. The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong. Usually, within five minutes after moderate exercise, you get a mood-enhancement effect.
- You Will Feel More Alert
Ever felt imbued with energy and confidence after a particularly rigorous workout? That’s because exercise increases blood flow, which benefits the brain. Like, almost immediately you begin exercising, brain cells will function at a higher level, which will make you feel more focused and alert.
- You Might Improve Your Memory
The Hippocampus is a part of the brain that’s involved in learning and memory, as well as the creation of new brain cells. When you exercise, your heart pumps more oxygen to your brain, which, in turn, supports the creation of new brain cells. Even when you stop exercising, those new brain cells survive, whereas many other changes in the brain during exercise eventually return to their normal state should you become less active. An Irish study put this science to the test by challenging two groups of young men to take a memory quiz. Afterward, half were asked to cycle for 30 minutes, while the other relaxed. When both groups took the memory test again, those who had exercised performed significantly better than they did on the original test, while those who were sedentary saw no change.
- You Will Feel Less Anxious
Maintaining a regular exercise routine is particularly important if you struggle with anxiety. A study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry Medicine found that exercise can help people with anxiety disorders maintain a sense of calm and reduce anxiety sensitivity. Exercise compares favorably to antidepressant medications as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression and has also been shown to improve depressive symptoms when used as an adjunct to medications. While not as extensively studied, exercise has been shown to be an effective and cost-efficient treatment alternative for a variety of anxiety disorders.
- You Will Be More Creative
Struggling with a creative task? The best time to tackle it might be during the two-hour window following an intense workout, science suggests. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that exercise could also boost creativity for the short period following a workout.