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You probably know that regular exercise can help you control your weight and blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious medical conditions, but physical activity has a host of other benefits. It can improve your mental health, help you sleep better and make you feel more relaxed and focused.

Less Stress
Exercise changes a part of the brain that regulates stress and anxiety. Working out can be a great way to blow off steam so you’ll feel less tense and overwhelmed. Exercising produces endorphins, which create positive feelings and improve pain tolerance. In addition, exercise increases the brain’s sensitivity for the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which can reduce symptoms of depression. Even moderate exercise can be beneficial. Another benefit is that if you work out and you look and feel better, your confidence and self-esteem will most likely improve.

More Energy
Exercise helps the cardiovascular system operate more efficiently and sends oxygen and nutrients to tissues throughout the body. That can give you more energy to tackle your other activities and make you more productive. Regular physical activity can increase energy levels for both healthy people and those with medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and cancer. Exercise may provide greater benefits than other strategies, such as stretching and relaxation.

Improved Cognitive Function
Exercise raises heart rate, which increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. That can lead to improved brain function and help protect memory and thinking ability. Exercise can also cause the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is essential for learning and memory, to increase in size, and may help slow or prevent mental decline in older adults.

Better Sleep
Exercise stimulates recuperation during sleep, which can improve sleep quality. Physical activity can also make you sleep better because it can help your body temperature drop during sleep. Getting a good night’s rest will make it easier to focus on work and other responsibilities. Just don’t exercise too late in the evening, or you may have trouble falling asleep.

Social Engagement
Exercise can be an excellent way to reconnect with family and friends or to meet new people. Trying something different can alleviate boredom and help you have fun as you explore newfound interests.

How Much Should You Exercise?
For most healthy adults, at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, is recommended. Find something you enjoy, and do it several days per week. If you have a chronic medical condition or any other concerns, talk to your doctor before you begin a new exercise regimen.