You know that exercise is good for you. It can help you lose weight, tone up, decrease the likelihood of heart disease and generally offer you a healthier, longer life. Were you also aware of how exercise can help you to feel better too?
Let's play the brain game
Exercise involves your brain as much as it does your body. During exercise, our brain releases ‘feel-good’ chemicals called endorphins. These hormones are associated with feelings of peace, calm and relieving stress.
Research has also shown how exercise improves the functioning of our brains. In a study of two older adult groups, one which led a sedentary lifestyle and the other an active one, results showed that the cognitive functioning of the brain was profoundly affected in the active group. It showed that exercise improved spatial awareness, reaction times, quantitative skills and higher executive functioning.
To prove it wasn’t a fluke, they tested to see whether brain function would improve in the sedentary group if they became active. After 4 months of following a light, aerobic exercise program, vast improvements were shown in all areas mentioned. As a bonus, memory scores improved significantly also in all members of the test group.
Exercise and Depression
The technological advances of the twentieth century brought with it some unwelcome side effects. A greater reliance on technology led inexorably to an increase in sedentary lifestyles. Technology replaced manual work and also took us off our feet as we sat in front of computers, televisions and video games. The result has been an explosion in many of our modern chronic illnesses – obesity, spiraling cardiac disease and depression to name but a few.
Thankfully, the role exercise has to play in treating depression has become more accepted. The medical community has begun to prescribe exercise in much the same way as they would anti-depressants. Study after study has shown that a light to moderate aerobic exercise program can have significant effects on cases of mild depression. It has also been shown to play an important supporting role in more acute cases.
The Hidden Gem
As a fitness trainer, I have noticed clients listing ‘to feel better’ as one of the major reasons for undertaking exercise when questioned. Though many more may come to exercise to lose weight or tone up for a special event, an increasing number are realizing the benefit of exercise on their state of mind. Many clients report the improvement in sleep patterns, better concentration levels, increase self-esteem and more balance in their lives as the first positive gains they notice when exercising. As a fitness professional,
I believe these are the hidden gems in adding exercise to your life. Yes, your major goal may be to lose a stone, but you should recognize that the psychological benefits of exercise are as vital to your overall well-being. To quote the philosopher Cicero, “it is exercise alone that supports the spirits and keeps the mind in vigour”.