Food – Psychological Benefits of Exercise

The time spent in physical exercise is not lost. … A proportionate exercise of all the organs and faculties of the body is essential to the best work of each. When the brain is constantly taxed while the other organs of the living machinery are inactive, there is a loss of strength, physical and mental. The physical system is robbed of its healthful tone, the mind loses its freshness and vigor, and a morbid excitability is the result.” Adventist Home, 494.

Over the years I stand amazed that science continues to find supporting evidence for the writings of E.G. White. Although the results have not been 100% consistent, many scientific studies of the effects of exercise upon the psychology of the mind document positive benefits. One such study showed improvements in fatigue, and total mood after 10 minutes of exercise, with progressive improvements in mental function over 20 minutes. A large study in Finland including over 3,000 people indicated a consistent association between enhanced psychological well-being of individuals who exercised at least two to three times a week. These people reported significantly less depression, anger, cynical distrust, and stress than those who exercised less frequently or not at all. (MEDLINE Abstracts: Psychological Benefits of Exercise from Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing e-Journal.)

Aerobic exercise has been shown to be helpful in stress reduction and maintaining a positive disposition. When you are stressed, it is important to get enough sleep. People who exercise regularly actually go to sleep faster, are more refreshed, and have sharper memories. Exercise increases the blood flow to the brain, bringing extra sugar and oxygen, which can help with concentration and stress reduction.

Aerobic exercise has also been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. It offers a distraction from worry and introspection. Burning excess fat and toning up can help boost anyone’s confidence and reduce depression.

Many of the benefits of exercise are a result of little chemicals called endorphins, which are produced by our body when we exercise. The chemicals bind to receptors in the brain and have four key effects on the body: they relieve pain, they reduce stress, they enhance the immune system, and they postpone the aging process. Endorphins are also triggered by deep-breathing, meditation, eating spicy food, and deep laughter. (Psychological Benefits of Aerobic Exercise, By Ciara Carruthers.)

Finally, “light and pleasant physical labor will occupy the time, improve the circulation, relieve and restore the brain, and prove a decided benefit to the health.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 555. So if you want good mental health, try exercise!