Did you know your bodies movement and brain health are fundamentally interconnected? Research suggests that with every step you take, lap you swim and mile you run, you’re unknowingly enhancing your brains cognitive function. We are all aware that our brain controls the actions in which our body takes, but in turn, our body also impacts the functionality and health of the brain. There, engaging in exercise can reduce anxiety and depression, improve your memory, boost self-esteem and allow you to have synergy with the mind.
Below we have listed the five ways in which movement can benefit your mental health:
1. Increases Brain Size
Exercise not only makes the existing structures within the brain healthier, but it can also increase the size of the brain. Research has shown that exercise increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex and the left side of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is critical for forming new memories due to its involvement in transitioning short-term memory into long-term memory. As we age, our hippocampus deteriorates, which often results in memory loss. This study has also shown that high-intensity aerobic exercise, in particular, has shown to increase the volume of the brain regions associated with your reasoning and learning ability.
2. Boosts Mood.
Working out enhances chemicals in the brain – like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which are hormones associated with improved mood, energy levels, decreased stress and a sense of well-being. When we engage in exercise, our muscles are tired, but you feel a sense of accomplishment which can positively impact your self-confidence. However, it is important to note that it is possible to overdo it. What we mean by this is, one of the many benefits of exercise is the stimulation of cortisol production in your brain which amplifies your alertness.
On the other hand, too much of this cortisol can lead to negative effects on your body and mood.
3. Reduce Anxiety
Exercise is a natural and effective anxiety-reducing treatment. It helps relieve the stress and tension that’s built up in your mind but also boosts physical and mental energy. Anything that gets your body moving such as talking a 20-minute walk, which will allow you to zone out from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s important to note that focusing on the rhythm of your breathing, or the pace you are walking at will help you focus on your body and its movement. This is a form of mindfulness, which will not only improve your physical condition faster, but it may serve as a distraction to the flow of constant worries running through your head.
4. Better Sleep
Mindful movement and exercise can indirectly contribute to more sound and restful sleep. Physical activity increases the time spent in a deep sleep. This restorative sleep phase, aids in boosting your body’s immune function, reduce stress and support your overall cardiac health. Gentle, relaxing exercises at nighttime such as yoga or stretching can help improve your sleep.
5. Aids in the Prevention of Memory Loss
Moving your body helps increase oxygen and blood circulation throughout the body and in your brain. Improved blood circulation in the brain generates to better mood and cognitive functioning. Studies show that exercising twice a week can prevent the cognitive decline that typically happens with age, like memory loss and brain functionality.
What impacts our body impacts our brain. Exercise is essential for your mental health. By moving your body, we can change and boost our brain functions and structure, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and improve the cognitive function of your brain whilst also boosting your mood and sleep. It’s always important to recognize that every individual responds differently to exercise but using physical movement as a mechanism can boost your brains cognitive function for optimum wellness.