A clear distinction is often made between ‘mind’ and ‘body’. But have you ever considered the two to be linked? One of the benefits of regular exercise is that it can actually have a profoundly positive impact on mental health - it can relieve stress, improve memory, help you sleep better, and boost your overall mood.
Exercise and mental health
Studies have shown that exercise can act as a mood enhancer & stress reliever, but it also seems to affect long-term mental health such as relieving symptoms of depression, anxiety & ADHD. The great thing is that you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that even just modest amounts of exercise can make a difference.
How? Physical activity promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, which are powerful chemicals in your brain that trigger a positive sensation throughout your body.
Additionally, exercise can also serve as a mental distraction. Getting active allows you to find some quiet time to break out of a cycle of negative thoughts that may feed depression and other mental illnesses.
No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.
Exercise and memory
Memory makes us. If we couldn't recall the who, what, where, and when of our everyday lives, we wouldn't be able to function.
Now imagine if we could increase our memory through a daily walk or run! You’d do it, right? In a study executed at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise - the kind that gets your heart pumping - appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Who would have thunk it?
Exercise and sleep
Many of us don’t get enough sleep and as a result we become tired. This can inhibit both mental agility and physical performance.
Want to fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed? Get moving!
As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically enhance the quality of your sleep, especially when you bust a move on the regular. What’s more, exercisers may reduce their risk for developing problematic sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome.
Essentially, we all need to get moving in order to feel good, remember more and to have a good night’s sleep.
If you’re struggling to find the time to get your heart pumping, try this ‘No sweat lunch-break workout’ put together by the Queensland Government: http://www.healthier.qld.gov.au/workouts/no-sweat-lunch-break/