I ran in Nebraska’s Market to Market Relay yesterday. As I sit here, too sore to make any unnecessary movements, yet intensely satisfied with my accomplishment (my first race), I thought it would be a great occasion to expound on the benefits of physical fitness for mental fitness.
We tend to think of ourselves in dualistic terms … there’s the body, and then there’s the mind. Not so. The brain is a part of the body, after all. So it follows that what is good for the body is good for the mind. Here’s six ways exercise helps not just your body, but your brain too:
1. Get in the flow
It’s as easy as a short walk to get your blood circulation up, improving the amount of blood, oxygen and glucose reaching your brain.
2. Pump it
Exercise also increases your heart rate. And increasing your heart rate enhances energy production and waste removal. And it can cause cerebral blood vessels to grow, which means increased blood circulation to your brain even when you’re not hitting the gym.
3. Reduce stress
Endorphins. Exercise releases these feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain, making you … feel good.
4. Sharpen memory
People who exercise regularly have displayed better memory, greater learning ability, better concentration and even better abstract reasoning than those who are sedentary.
5. Grow more brain
Researchers have found a direct correlation between how much exercise a person gets and how many new brain cells are created.
6. Keep your brain healthy
Getting up and moving regularly can also help delay the effects of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
So … as a person who counts on your brainpower for a living, why wouldn’t you take advantage of this? I challenge you to add a 20 minute walk to your daily routine.
It doesn’t have to be rigorous, just do it. I talk myself into my runs by promising myself I don’t have to run hard, I can just take it easy. Once I get out there, I almost always end up pushing myself than I planned to because as you get warmed up, it just feels good. I’m willing to bet that once you start getting into the routine and feeling the physical and cognitive benefits for yourself, you’ll start evolving your routine too.