Most people know that exercise will tone their muscles and help prevent heart disease. What a lot of people don’t know is that exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory and learning. Exercise isn’t just about the physical benefits. There are tons of cognitive, psychological, neurobiological and lifestyle benefits as well.
Stressed out? Go for a run. As your heart rate increases and your body recognizes this as stress, your brain’s “fight or flight” instinct kicks in. To protect yourself you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotophic Factor). This protein acts like a reset switch, often making you feel more clear minded and at ease after exercising. At the same time, endorphins are released in your brain. These chemicals also fight stress, reduce feelings of pain and are often associated with a feeling of euphoria.
Down in the dumps? Depression is one of the most common mental conditions affecting people worldwide. Research suggests that the right amount of physical activity can reduce symptoms of depression just about as effectively as antidepressants. Crazy, right? Studies have found that being active not only stimulates the growth of neurons damaged by depression, but also boosts the productions of brain molecules that improve the connections between nerve cells. Essentially, exercise acts as a natural antidepressant. So why aren’t doctors prescribing exercise? Help yourself out. If you’re feeling down, get moving!
Build your brain like you build your muscles. Exercise improves learning on multiple levels. Our capacity to learn is improved by boosting our concentration and attention skills. Physical activity also encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which allows us to learn new information, and promotes the development of new nerve cells related to memory and learning.
Seeing fitness improvement, like lifting more weight than before or running a faster mile, tends to make you feel pretty good too, doesn’t it? You get a little self esteem boost when you see what you are capable of when you push yourself!
Honestly, look at all the benefits, exercise is too important and beneficial to not make it a priority in your life. We should all gain an appreciation for what exercise is actually capable of doing for us. I’m a fitness fanatic, but I’ll admit, doing my research while writing this post has exposed me to even more benefits then I was aware of before. So what are you waiting for? GO BREAK A SWEAT!