“In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” – Plato
You know it’s important to exercise for your physical well-being but more importantly, exercise is extremely beneficial for your mental well-being.
There is a reason why you feel so good after exercising, there is now scientific evidence to show that exercise can actually build and condition the brain. It’s easy to forget in today’s modern world that humans are born to move – technology has revolutionised the way you do your job and live your life – the sedentary lifestyle has now become normality for the majority of the population. This results in a number of health risks:
- Increased risk of colon and breast cancer
- Higher rates of heart attack and stroke
- Higher rates of depression
- Decreased muscle and bone strength
Physical activity is essential to keep our brains at peak performance – you care for the body, you care for the mind –If you’re still not convinced, here a 4 reasons to get off your chair and start moving:
Increased levels of serotonin and dopamine
These are the most important neurotransmitters in your brain because they control how happy you feel through the trafficking of thoughts and emotions. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, and the amazing part about exercise is that it actually strengthens the connection of the nerve cells that control these levels.
John J.Ratey, MD has published revolutionary research in his book SPARK that describes this process by stating: The neurons in the brain connect to one another through “leaves” on tree like branches, exercise causes those branches to grow and bloom with new buds, thus enhancing brain function at a fundamental level.
Improved memory and learning
Most people already struggle with poor memory and I for one wasn’t the best student in school, but I always knew I felt my best learning a new task immediately after a workout. Now there is evidence to show why.
In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
Research published by the Harvard medical school have shown many studies that suggest the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t.
This is great news for us regular exercisers, maybe this is why I never lose my keys or forget where I left my wallet. If you find yourself forgetting things all the time and you don’t exercise you now know why – your brain is physically smaller.
Cure depression and anxiety
In October 2000 researchers from Duke university published evidence showing that exercise is better than sertraline (Zoloft) at treating depression. It bewilders me why this popular drug is so readily prescribed to patients suffering depression and anxieties before exercise.
It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to make the connection between increased levels of serotonin from exercise and decreased depression, yet these types of antidepressants are handed out on a daily basis exposing patients to a number of side effects.
If you ever find yourself feeling down, anxious, or tired; get outside and go for a run, go to the gym, or play a sport – I guarantee your mood and energy levels will be elevated.
Getting old is a fact of life, like paying taxes, it’s something we can’t avoid. As we age the cells throughout our body gradually begin to lose their ability to handle stress.
The more active you are as you get older, the more chance you have of reducing the degeneration of the stem cells in your brain.
Put simply, if your brain isn’t growing, it’s dying. Exercise is one of the few natural ways to slow aging because it increases the stress threshold.
There is compelling evidence that shows the affect lifestyle factors have on aging – the same things that kill the body also kill the brain. Look after your two most important assets and you will be guaranteed to live longer.
“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order” – John Adams.
If this is not enough for you I highly recommend reading Spark – by John Ratey.
A healthy body is a healthy mind.