Home / Blog / Mental Health Benefits of Cardio Exercise

Mental Health Benefits of Cardio Exercise




A lot of people think that the brain and the body’s muscles are two independent things that can’t work together. This couldn’t be more wrong, though. While some folks judge endorphin junkies being all brawn and no wits, science has actually proven several times before that cardio exercises have great effects on one’s brain. It might come as a surprise to many, but once you understand how exercise really works, it will all make perfect sense.


Cardio and Your Brain

You might be thinking, how exactly can aerobic exercise benefit the brain? If all you do is move your body and sweat, how is that beneficial for your head? Well, the simplest way to answer this is by pointing out that by doing an aerobic exercise, your heart rate gets elevated. This will then help improve your blood circulation, helping bring more oxygen and glucose to your brain. In fact, training masks are very popular to get to productive levels even quicker.


Did you know there are various ways to get your cardio and body integrated when using the stair stepper machine? It quickly attacks all aspect of your performance and helps to increase your stamina while reducing weight. This is very effective in how athletes can get the best of their workouts in.


These two are vital ingredients to the brain’s proper functioning. The more the brain gets of these two, the better it can perform. Strength training has been used as an alternative method of exercising your brain and lifting dumbbells are highly suggested from subject matter experts. Apart from that riding your bike is useful as well.

Fortunately, there are a TON of great ways to improve your cardio with bike riding. If you live in a mountainous area and are on a budget you’ll want to check out these options under $200, or if you have a slightly higher budget you can get some nicer ones for $300 and less.

However, if you want to improve your cardio through biking but live in a relatively flat area then you’ll want to invest in a hybrid bike. You can get a REALLY nice one under $500. Finally, if you’re on the beach then check out these affordable bike cruisers.


Aside from oxygen and glucose, cardio can also trigger the brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. This protein is essential for the brain as it is designed to foster the brain’s development and the production of new neurons, so the more exercise you do, the more BDNF you get to produce. The more BDNF there is, the happier you are, the better you retain memories, and the easier it is for you to learn new concepts and ideas.



There are lots of other different ways how the brain benefits from a cardio workout. It might even just be as plenty as the choices you have in executing an aerobic exercise. No matter what your chosen program is, may it be trail running, swimming, cycling indoors, home rowing, or any other method, as long as your heart rate is at its optimal level, your brain can get a good kick from this workout’s benefits. You might want to track your progress, though, so you can closely monitor both your physical and cognitive improvement.


5 Reasons Why Cardio Exercising will Make You Mentally Healthy

As specific brain activities are targeted by cardio workouts, you can also expect to enjoy many great mental health benefits from aerobic exercises. Five of the very reasons why it will make you mentally healthy are the following:


Reduce Stress and Help You Relax

This may sound counterintuitive as having your heart rate up sounds like the exact opposite of what relaxing is, but science actually says that cardio can help you relax. As cardio triggers the production of the neuromodulator norepinephrine, the brain gets to deal with stress more effectively.


Dubbed as the brain’s stress buffer, it plays a major role in modulating other neurotransmitters that determine the body’s response to stress. And because a lot of antidepressants’ goal is to help the body produce more of this chemical, then you can be sure that your body needs it to deal with stress.



Exercise also suppresses the body’s production of cortisol, a. k. a. the body’s stress hormone. While you need this chemical to wake you up in the morning and give you the fight or flight instinct, having high doses of it isn’t good for you. By keeping it down, you get to minimize stress and the more relaxed you can be. This makes a lot of people more determined to workout after a rough day at work as the benefits are definitely well worth the effort.


Make You Happy and Prevent Anxiety and Depression

The spike in hormone production brought by cardio is another example of the many positive mental health effects of exercise. As you workout, your body also gets to release more endorphin or the body’s natural pain-killer and also the very reason why you feel euphoric after you sweat it all out on a treadmill. Other hormones like serotonin and dopamine are also involved in this post-workout bliss, often referred to as the “runner’s high”, but endorphin gets most of the credit.



Duke University researchers also found out that by doing moderate intensity cardio thrice a week has the same effects as some antidepressant medications. In this study, they’ve found out that exercise not only helps enhance your mood but also prevents the relapse of depression. It’s one of the most promising mental health benefits of exercise as cardio can easily be a more affordable and safer way to deal with such a crippling psychological problem.


Keep You Sharp

Aging is detrimental to your brainpower as it causes brain tissue deterioration. This can lead to a decline in your cognitive functions making you forgetful and slower when making plans and decisions. Dementia is also a common serious neurological problem among seniors.


Aerobic exercise gets to play a huge role in reversing the problems caused by the brain’s deterioration and decay, however. According to experts, brain cells die as we age, but it’s not exactly a pervasive problem or inevitable. Research has shown that moderate levels of exercise can be a preventive measure against brain decline.



It can trigger the production of more BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor which is a special protein that triggers neurogenesis or the birth of neurons in the brain. This helps improve overall brain performance, making it possible for us to learn more easily and have better memory as well as decision making and higher thinking skills.


Make You More Creative and Productive

Exercise and mental health also go hand in hand to help you perform better at work. Aside from giving you more energy to keep you wide awake and at top shape while at the office, you also get to be more alert and focused on what you’re doing.


In a study, experts discovered that cardio can sharpen one’s focus and improve one’s decision-making skills. Subjects who regularly do cardio exercises also turned out to be more adept at ignoring distractions, letting them concentrate better and even multitask more effectively.



A quick cardio workout will also benefit you right before you need it. Exercise tends to stimulate the brain right away, so it can give you a quick creative or learning boost for up to two hours post-workout. This makes it a perfect preparation for an important brainstorming session, project pitch meeting, or even a crucial test trick for those who need that extra push.


The boost in creativity one gets after a cardio session is another testament to the close relationship of running and mental health. Another study shows that creativity can be a residual effect of aerobic exercise, as regular physical activity tends to result in improved divergent and convergent thinking.


Help Control Addiction

Another great example of the most important psychological benefits of exercise is its ability to curb drug abuse. Studies have shown that those who regularly engage in aerobic exercises are less likely to abuse drugs and other addictive substances.


Experts attribute this special ability of cardio to the fact that it releases the hormone known as dopamine which is the body’s “reward chemical” after it experiences any kind of pleasure. Exercise is one example of such, so people get to experience a natural high after a solid workout.



Cardio is also said to be an effective tool to stay off the illicit substance one has been dependent on, making it useful for those who are on the road to recovery. The physical activity helps distract them from their cravings and the natural high also helps make them feel satisfied after sweating it all out.



If you’re still on the fence when it comes to including cardio to your daily routine, the fact that it can boost your brain’s power and functioning should be enough reason to give it a go. Extensive research has proven that mental and emotional health can be improved through exercise, so if you really want a surefire means to improve not only your physical health, cardio exercises is the best way to go about it.


With brain deterioration being one of the most serious threats to your health, taking steps to prevent it is a must. Especially since it’s not inevitable, you can find ways to keep your wits with you as you age. Regular cardio workouts will not only help you avoid the potential risk developing various health problems that can stem out of not taking of yourself, but you can also ensure that your mind will always perform at its best even as you age.


So really, if you’re looking for a good reason to start doing cardio, we hope this list of mental health benefits of exercise convinces you to give aerobics a chance. Besides, you can always combine it with other training regimes so it shouldn’t be a bother to help you achieve your fitness goals. With all of the neurological and psychological benefits of this exercise, you’re not only guaranteed to boost your mental health, but you can also skip the expenses having cognitive issues can bring.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.