Ask any fitness enthusiast why they work out as hard as they do and they’ll tell you because it feels good.
It’s no secret that exercise is good for your health and we’ve all experienced that rush of endorphins at the end of an intense workout or game, and the pump of blood flooding our muscles. Now science has found that working out for at least four hours a week can improve mental health and reduce stress and depression.
This latest research, a joint study out of the universities of Tel Aviv and Haifa, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, shows a 50% reduction in depression, stress and burnout in people who exercise for a minimum of four hours a week.
The nine-year study looked at 1,632 healthy workers and set out to determine the effects of workplace depression, stress and burnout and how they affect productivity.
Depression has been linked to burnout in previous studies and though they are quite different – “depression is a clinical mood disorder, and burnout is defined by physical, cognitive, and emotional exhaustion” – both can affect overall health and quality of life, leading to self-esteem and self-worth issues.
Most of us live busy lives and experience the challenge of work/life balance on a daily basis. We can relate to the possibility of burnout, even workout burnout, but we all know how important it is to bust through these plateaus and keep moving. Knowing that you’re strengthening your body along with your mind – in essence, developing and the mind/body connection – is just one more reason to work out.
And that’s not all. In another study, this time out of the Mayo Clinic, scientists showed that exercise has a profound impact on people who already suffer from cognitive impairment:
“We culled through all the scientific literature we could find on the subject of exercise and cognition, including animal studies and observational studies, reviewing over 1,600 papers, with 130 bearing directly on this issue. We attempted to put together a balanced view of the subject,” says J. Eric Ahlskog, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic. “We concluded that you can make a very compelling argument for exercise as a disease-modifying strategy to prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment, and for favorably modifying these processes once they have developed.”
The mental health benefits of regular exercise has a direct correlation to your heart and cardiovascular condition. In other words, you need to work out in at a certain level to keep your heart elevated and within a certain target heart range in order to improve your fitness level and mental health.
Working within your target heart range does not necessarily have to involve cardio or long hours on the treadmill. Weight lifting can produce the same results and provides short bursts of energy that have been shown to be more beneficial to the heart than long bouts of cardio work.
Whatever your method of staying fit, we all know how good we feel after we walk out of the gym and how good our clothes feel, especially if they’re a little tight under our blossoming muscles. But now we also know that this incredible feeling is a result of our hearts interacting with our brains. And that’s a good reason to be crazy about fitness.
Mark A. Samuel
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