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You know that exercise helps you stay fit and toned and can help you slim down. But that’s soooo not the only reason to hit the gym—it’s also hugely helpful for your psyche. We rounded up the top ways that it helps your brain, not just your body:
1. It helps alleviate depression:
Research shows that exercise is so effective at chasing away the blues, it can even help treat major depressive disorder. In fact, last year, researchers at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center came up with clinical guidelines for the necessary exercise “dose” doctors should recommend to patients to reap the antidepressant effects.
2. It improves your memory:
Getting your heart rate up improves blood flow to the brain, which helps boost memory and overall brain function. In one study that looked at brain structure pre- and post-workout, researchers found increases in brain volume in a number of areas after participants got sweaty. The effect is pretty noticable, too: Patients in the study did 10 to 15 percent better on a variety of memory and attention tasks after they’d exercised.
3. It helps you de-stress:
When you’re stressed, it’s often because your to-do list is a mile long—so you probably feel like it would just be more nerve-wracking to try to squeeze in a workout on top of everything else. But here’s why you should: A study that came out last year from the University of Colorado at Boulder found that even forced exercise can help protect you from anxiety and stress. So stop making excuses, and get thee to the gym when you’re feeling frantic.
4. It makes you more focused:
After evaluating more than 100 studies on exercise, University of Iowa researchers concluded that strength training helps your focus because it requires focus: After all, it takes some serious effort to eek out those reps without sacrificing the correct form, all while remembering to breathe and tuning out the distracting guy huffing and puffing beside you.
5. It helps you stick to your goals:
In the same University of Iowa study, researchers concluded that, since cardio requires such long and consistent effort, doing a lot of it may help you develop an ability to follow through with tasks. That, in turn, can help you stick to other (non-exercise-related) goals that require long-term effort.
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