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  • Writer's pictureEve Nevelos

Exercise: The impact on our mental health and cognitive function

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

By: Marisa, Contributing Writer

Mental Health illnesses affect 1 in 5 teens from the ages of 12-18. This article focuses on how exercise improves cognitive function, decreases anxiety, decreases depression, and takes away negative feelings. This article also touches upon how daily exercise can impact your performance in school.

Online school was extremely tough, for students around the world. Many were feeling unfocused and distracted with their school work, and many were anxious about COVID-19. According to USA Today, “3/10 students experienced emotional and mental harm due to remote learning”(5). When I am anxious or unfocused, I put on my sneakers and go for a run or a walk. When I run or walk, I start to feel relaxed, calm and focused. Exercise has a positive effect on decreasing anxiety, depression, and improves cognitive function. The exercise fulfils people with a sense of well being. People who often exercise feel energetic, sleep better, have sharp memories, and feel more relaxed.

Studies have shown that exercise can treat moderate depression, as effective as antidepressant medications. A recent study performed by Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk for depression by 26%. Exercise promotes changes in the brain, such as neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity that promotes a feeling of well-being and calm. When you exercise your brain releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals that make you feel calm and happy.

Exercise can reduce stress and anxiety and boosts physical and mental energy. When you are mindful during your exercise you improve your physical condition and it stops the constant worries running through your head. Endorphins and exercise releases tension in the body. Exercise can reduce symptoms for ADHD and improve concentration, motivation, mood, and memory. Exercise activities such as sailing, biking, and skiing have been shown to reduce symptoms of PTSD.

Exercise improves the cognitive function of the brain. “The same endorphins that make you feel calm and good allow you to concentrate and be able to complete tasks at hand. Exercise stimulates the growth of brain cells and prevents age-related decline”(2). Consistent exercise can make you feel strong and powerful. Exercise is an investment to your overall well being and helps you foster self-worth. Exercise can help you cope in a healthy way.

Exercise has a positive effect on your overall school performance. Dr John J. Ratey, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, states exercise improves your mindset which improves attention in class and motivation to complete assignments. Exercise prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for storing information in your brain.”(4) Lastly, exercise increases the ability to produce new nerve cells. If you exercise for 15 to 30 minutes a day, students will be able to retain information easier and have an increase in their attention span and motivation.

In conclusion, exercising for 15 to 30 minutes a day can produce endorphins that produce a sense of wellbeing and calmness. Exercise can reduce depression symptoms, anxiety, reduces stress, ADHD, and PTSD. In addition to helping mental health illnesses, exercise can improve the cognitive function of the brain and can improve students' overall performance in school.


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