26 Dec 13 Shocking Ways How Exercise can Help Your Brain
Most people are hitting the gym or pounding the pavement to acquire best multivitamin for men, boost cardiovascular health, build muscle, and, of course, get a bodily rockin, but exercise also has benefits above the waist. Researchers have been talking about how exercise can improve brain function for the past decade or so. Regardless of age or level of fitness (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise offers some serious mental benefits. Stay motivated by reading these surprising ways to exercise that can support mental health, relationships, and lead to a healthier and happier overall life.
Bad day at the office? For a quick workout, take a walk or go to the gym. One of the exercise’s most common mental benefits is stress relief. Working up a sweat will help with physical and mental stress management. Exercise also increases norepinephrine concentrations, a chemical that can regulate the response of the brain to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty — workout will reduce stress and increase the ability of the body to cope with existing mental distress. It’s a win – win!
Boost Happy Chemicals
Slogging on the’ mill for a few miles can be difficult, but the effort is worth it! Exercise activates endorphins that make you feel happy and euphoric. Studies have shown that exercise among clinically depressed people can even alleviate symptoms. For this reason, doctors prescribe a lot of gym time for people with depression or anxiety (or those who just feel blue) pencil. Exercise can be as effective in treating depression in some situations as antidepressant drugs. Don’t worry if you’re not exactly the type of gym rat — having a positive buzz from working out a few days a week for just 30 minutes will improve your overall mood instantly.
Improve Self Confidence
Step on the treadmill to look like a million bucks (and, most importantly, enjoy like that). Physical fitness can improve self-esteem and promote positive self-image at a very basic level. Irrespective of weight, height, gender, or age, exercise may easily improve the perception of a person’s attractiveness, that is, self-worth. What is it like to feel the (self) love?
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Taking a workout out for an extra boost of self-love. Outdoor exercise will increase self-esteem even more. Choose an outdoor workout that suits your style, whether it’s rock climbing, biking, canoe rentals, or just jogging in the woods. Plus, all that vitamin D has gained from soaking up the sun (while wearing sunscreen, of course!) will reduce the likelihood that depressive symptoms may occur. Why book a spa day when you can work wonders for self-confidence and satisfaction with a little fresh air and sunshine (and exercise)?
Prevent Cognitive Decline
It’s sad, but it’s real— as we grow older, our minds are becoming a little hazy. When aging and degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells, the noggin gradually shrinks, thus losing many essential brain functions. While exercise and a healthy diet can not “heal” Alzheimer’s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that starts after age 45. Working out, especially between 25 and 45 years of age, improves brain chemicals that help and prevent hippocampal degeneration, a vital part of the brain for memory and learning.
Quick Q&A: What better way to relieve anxiety— a hot bubble bath or a 20-minute jog? The response may surprise you. The warm and fluffy chemicals released during and after exercise can help calm people with anxiety disorders. Hopping on the track or treadmill will reduce vulnerability to anxiety for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise (intervals, anybody?). So we thought it was a good way to burn calories at intervals!
Boost Brain Power
Those buff rats from the lab may be smarter than we think. Various mice and men studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and enhance overall brain output. Were you willing to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a difficult exercise in the body raises levels of a protein originating from the brain (known as BDNF), believed to assist with decision making, higher thought, and learning. In reality, smart (spandex) pants.
Win big at Go Fish. Regular physical activity enhances memory and allows new things to be learned. Getting sweaty increases the output of memory and learning cells in the hippocampus. Research has therefore related the development of children’s brain to the level of physical activity (take that, recess haters!). Yet brain power dependent on exercise is not just for girls. Even if it’s not as fun as a Red Rover game, exercise can also improve memory among adults. A study showed increased vocabulary retention in healthy adults by running sprints.
Help Control Addiction
In reaction to any sort of gratification, be it exercise, sex, narcotics, alcohol, or food, the brain releases dopamine, the “chemical reward.” Unfortunately, some people become dopamine addicted and reliant on the substances that make it, such as drugs or alcohol (and, more rarely, food and sex). Exercise can help in the treatment of addiction on the bright side. Fast workout sessions can also successfully relax drug or alcohol users, helping them (at least in the short term) de-prioritize cravings. Works out when there are other rewards on the bus as well. Alcohol abuse interferes with many functions of the body, including circadian rhythms. As a result, alcoholics find that without drinking they can not fall asleep (or stay asleep). Exercise can help the body clock to reset and help people hit the hay at the right time.
After a long run or weight session at the gym, have you ever hit the hay? For some, even for people with insomnia, a mild exercise may be the equivalent of a sleeping pill. Walking around 5 to 6 hours before bedtime increases the core temperature of the body. If a few hours later the body temperature decreases back to normal, it signals to the body that it is time to sleep.
Get More Done
Got that uninspire feeling in the cubicle? A short walk or jog away may be the answer. Research shows that workers who regularly take time to exercise are more efficient and have more resources than their sedentary counterparts. Although busy schedules in the middle of the day can make it hard to fit in a workout, most experts think midday is the perfect time for a workout because of the circadian rhythms of the body.
Tap into Creativity
Many people finish a tough workout with a hot shower, but perhaps instead we should remove the colored pencils. A heart-pumping gym session will improve up to two hours later imagination. Post-workout supercharge motivation by outdoor exercise and contact with nature (see Benefit #4). Next time you need creative thinking to explode, hit the woods for a long walk or run at the same time to refresh your body and brain.
Whether it’s a soccer pick-up game, a gym community class, or just a run with a mate, in a bubble, exercise rarely occurs. And for us all, that’s good news. Studies show that when paired with a workout buddy, most people perform better on aerobic tests. Link it to inspiration or good old-fashioned rivalry, no one wants to let down the other guy. In reality, being part of a team is so important that the tolerances of athletes for pain will actually be improved. Even beginners in fitness will inspire each other during a sweat session to push harder, so find a workout buddy and go!
Working out beyond the gym (and beach season) can have positive effects. Gaining self-confidence, coming out of a funk, and even thinking smarter are some of the reasons for regular exercise time.