by Mary Murphy
A lot of emphasis is put on the body when talking about working out—those washboard abs, defined calves, slimmed thighs--but sometimes we forget that the mind is part of the body, too. Call me a sucker for brain power, but there’s definitely something to a healthier mind, a happier you. And here’s the thing: it’s easy. You don’t have to be a marathoner (but kudos to you!) to get the mental benefits of devoting extra time to exercise. Any age, any fitness level can join in.
Need some stress reduction? Skip that expensive massage at the spa. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that moderates the brain’s response to stress.
Exercise also releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Doctors recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety hit the gym, since studies have shown that it can alleviate symptoms, even in the clinically depressed.
But it’s not all about the chemical releases in the brain. Working toward a better body can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image, even before you hit that target number on the scale. And once your self-esteem starts going up, everything in your life seems to shine a little bright.
Don’t overlook chances to get outside and exercise! Take a nice walk, pick up rock climbing, or do some laps in the pool. The Vitamin-D boost created from the sun rays can lessen the likelihood of depressive symptoms.
Working out, especially if you’re in the bracket of 25 to 45 years old, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus (an important part of the brain for memory and learning). While exercise can’t cure Alzheimer’s, it can help your body buffer up against cognitive decline. While you may not want to remember the name of your embarrassing high school prom date, you at least want it to be by choice.
For some, a workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, helping those with insomnia. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When that body temp drops, it signals to your body it’s bedtime.
Unable to focus at your desk? Maybe try to fit in a gym break around lunch hour. Workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their sedentary peers, and midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian rhythms.
And if your creative juices are running dry, maybe you should opt for a heart-pumping gym session. High cardio workouts can boost creativity for up to two hours afterward.
So, while a tight booty is great, nothing beats a strong mind. And a good start there is just being consistent with your workout routine. You don’t have to be pumping steel, just get yourself moving. And don’t let it be just another new year’s resolution that’s dropped come February.