How Exercise Helps You Mentally


Have you heard the latest health news?

“Sitting is the new smoking,” was the phrase quoted by Dr. James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, in an interview with the LA Times. Many health experts agree sitting has become one of the most underrated health threats present amongst society today.

I don’t know about you, but just the sounds of that statement make me want to get up out of my seat and run around the block a few times!

Experts say, however, not to worry, just more reason to start right now of thinking of ways to integrate more activity throughout your day, and then implementing those ways.

If prolonged sitting poses an equal to an even greater threat than smoking has to our health, perhaps leading us closer to our death bed than we thought, the shift in focus needs to be on exercise to lead us down the right path to better health and happiness. Integrating exercise into your daily routine can not only potentially save your life but give you a one-way ticket to a life that is happier, calmer, and smarter.

Truth be told…

Exercise can nurture and fuel your mind, body, and soul, in profound ways.

If you aren’t at a point in your life where you can make regularly scheduled trips to the gym, pilates, or yoga class at the local studio, again, not a reason to worry, the key to reaping the benefits of exercise is to find ways to integrate more activity into your everyday life. You may already be thinking of common ways to do this, such as taking the stairs, instead of the elevator, and parking farther away from the store entrance than usual. Be sure to take a moment and give yourself credit for what you already do to keep active, such as exercise involved with physical therapy, or sports team you play on.

So how does exercise lead to a happier, calmer, smarter way of life?

Being active helps to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) otherwise known as “the good” cholesterol while decreasing unhealthy triglycerides. Meanwhile, this reaction in the body helps to keep blood throughout the body pumping and running smoothly. Thus, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and associated health issues (Mayo Clinic, 2019)

In the book, written by John J. Ratey, MD, titled: Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, the author draws upon groundbreaking research studies with evidence of the health benefits of exercise, as noted throughout the article.

Exercise has shown to increase blood flow to the brain.

The increased blood flow acts as rocket fuel to the brain providing nutrient-rich oxygenated blood containing glucose, improving mental focus and alertness. Researchers at Columbia University concluded from a study that a 3-month exercise regimen could increase blood flow to the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning by 30 percent.

Exercise has shown to enhance cognitive and mental functioning, including short-term memory, reaction time, and even creativity. In other words, exercise makes it easier for us to learn.

Did you know that after an exercise session, people can pick up new vocabulary words 20 percent faster, as compared to before the session?

German researchers did a study in 2007 and found that exercise was directly correlated to BDNF levels, thus promoting an increase in the rate of learning, whereby findings revealed a 20 percent increase in cognition after exercise.

Research has shown exercise to help with treating mental ailments such as depression, anxiety, stress, and if it couldn’t sound any better, improve overall mood, and the sweating from exercise has even been shown to increase smiling. Researchers at Duke University involved in a landmark study referred to as SMILE (Standard Medical Intervention and Long-term Exercise) found exercise to be equally effective as taking an SSRI medication.

Exercise helps us to find and maintain quality of life. For those in physical therapy, you are well on your way to reaping all the benefits.

References

7 great reasons why exercise matters. (2019, May 11). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389.

Ratey, J. J., & Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark: the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. New York: Little, Brown.

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