Exercise is a must, especially in a day and age where we are allowed to be less and less physically active.
The conveniences of life and the nature of required daily tasks have removed a lot of the focus on utilizing our bodies as the functional machines they are.
This is now turning out to be a problem, as the average low levels of physical activity, referred to as sedentarism, are tearing our health to shreds.
Metabolic illnesses such as diabetes and obesity are now common ailments when once they were almost unheard of.
There is another, often an unreported aspect of our health that a lack of exercise has a negative impact on.
That is our mental health.
A Decline in Mental and Cognitive Health
Statistics show that mental health is a major issue in today’s modern world. One would think with all the trappings, conveniences and amenities of modern living, the struggles and stresses on the mind would leave us carefree and blissful.
Well, on paper, yes, but there are other factors at play.
Firstly, having one’s basic needs met is just that, basic needs. Ticking these off the list doesn’t necessarily make you happy. These are things that normally should be taken for granted.
The thing is, humans are existential beings. We need a purpose in order to provide ourselves with a sense of meaning. That’s the gift and the curse of having advanced intelligence we suppose.
The sense of purpose, although seemingly deep in meaning and origin, is simply triggered by a reward mechanism that functions with hormones such as dopamine and endorphins to elicit a reward mechanism that serves as an evolutionary pat on the back for doing things that are good for you and your survival.
One of these things is rigorous physical activity. The exercise simulates functions at an intensity that your body considers relevant for survival or important task completion. Regular exercise makes you feel good regularly, which is good for all aspects of your mental health.
Exercise is also good for the basic physiology of the brain. Your nervous system is built and maintained based on the functional demands your body places,
In this article, we’re going to go into ways that regular exercise can optimize brain and mental health.
4 Ways Exercise Is Good For Your Brain
1. Creates New Neural Links
When you engage in activities regularly, you are reinforcing the nervous pathways that allow them to happen. From sensory neurons and motor neurons in the brain to the specific centers in the central nervous system that govern these inputs and outputs, physical activity is tantamount to brain activity.
And just as with working out, training an untrained muscle leads to new growth just as it leads to the formation of new neural pathways and brain centers.
2. Boosts and Stabilizes Mood
A good workout will more than likely leave you feeling in a better mood than you were in when you started.
If you were already in pretty good spirits, well, prepare for an overdose of the good feels.
That’s because, as we mentioned earlier, exercise, especially cardio-based workouts, leads to a release in endorphins and dopamine.
These reward molecules are synonymous with other meaningful activities such as sex, eating or completing a creative task.
The rush of endorphins which come with exercise is particularly profound and is often referred to as runners high.
For this reason, exercise is often prescribed as a means of treatment for depression and chronic stress.
3. Improves Brain-Body Coordination
Many people today don’t even know how to carry their own weight.
The sedentary life has to lead us down the path of being out of touch with our physical selves.
Physical exercise helps us gain lost ground on that mind-body link as we are forced to coordinate physical activity with real-time thought habits.
The more complex the activity, the more advanced the effects on coordination, balance and reaction skills become.
Taking on an activity such as dancing or martial art has profound benefits in this regard.
4. Boosts Confidence and Self Esteem
The spike in endorphins and dopamine certainly makes you feel good, but regular exercise also makes you feel good about yourself.
This happens due to many reasons. The aforementioned cocktail of feel-good hormones is one of them, but also the sense of rewarding fulfillment that comes with knocking down personal performance records or watching your body visibly transform has a role to play.
The learning, nurturing and mastery of a new skill in the case of a sport or discipline also have a profound impact on your level of self-perception.
Being able to stand as an expert or even just proficient in any category automatically grants you a sense of confidence and pride in yourself.
The importance of exercise on your brain and psychological health can no longer be seen as a fringe consideration.
Physical and mental health are inextricably linked and these are just a few of the thousands of ways this fact prevails.