When we think about the benefits of exercise, we usually think of better sleep, more energy, maintaining a healthy weight, stronger muscles or a healthier heart. These are all true BUT we rarely consider the immediate effects that physical activity can have on the most important organ in our bodies: THE BRAIN.
Decreases feelings of anxiety
Exercise can be particularly helpful for people who deal with anxiety and panic attacks. There are a few ways in which exercise can help to do this.
Every time you move your body, brain chemicals, including dopamine and serotonin, get released into your brain. These substances can decrease feelings of anxiety or depression and improve your mood. It only takes between 10 and 30 minutes of daily physical activity to instantly lift your mood. No gym membership? Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Crunched for time in the office? Take your call on your cell phone and go for a walk.
When you engage in strenuous physical activity, you’re essentially mimicking the responses that can come with anxiety, allowing you to learn how to manage these responses and not be overwhelmed by them in other situations. Similar to studying for a test, the more you prepare for it the better you will perform on test day.
Habitual and routine exercise can improve mental health. Getting dressed and driving to the gym first thing in the morning may not be so fun in the moment but after completion of your workout you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Getting into a routine helps the brain relax, plus the other added benefits of exercise.
Improves your focus and concentration
Workouts can help improve your ability to focus your attention on the task at hand. Through your workout session you are focused on the task at hand and not thinking about work or what to make for dinner. When you return to work or any task after exercising your mind has had a break from thinking about that one thing so you will be able to concentrate on it for a little bit longer. Physical activity can also improve cognitive regulation, or the ability to ignore distractions and multi-task.
This is an immediate benefit that can last for at least two hours after 30 minutes of exercise. We recommend activities that increase your heart rate, such as brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling or jumping rope. Workout sessions can also improve your reaction times which means, for example, that you’re going to be much faster at catching that cup of coffee before it falls off the table.
It protects your brain from aging and neurodegenerative diseases
Physical activity can improve brain functions like memory and cognition both immediately after a workout and in the long-term. Imagine your brain as a muscle: the more you workout your brain, the stronger and bigger it gets. Exercise increases the blood supply to your brain and promotes the growth of new neurons (adult neurogenesis) in the hippocampus, a brain area that is essential for learning and memory. So while exercising won’t completely prevent or cure normal cognitive decline in aging, doing it consistently can help reduce or delay the onset of it.
Contact the therapists at Sheddon Physio Sports Clinic in Oakville to have an exercise plan created for you.