A physical workout is also a mental workout. Let’s start with the basics, which really aren’t too basic when you think about it.
The simple part is the physical exercise; it’s a matter of just getting up and doing it, whether it’s a walk, run, stretch, swim or anything that involves movement.
The complicated part is when it comes to the perks of exercise and how your body works in unison while you work out—especially in regard to the mental benefits.
The most common benefit most people connect with working out is that you’ll look good or even have that summer body.
Some people “work at it all year” while others work out all year. I happen to be one of those people who work out year around, not only to look good, but for the other benefits, too.
Working out not only helps you to look good, but gives you confidence that continues to grow as you start to look and feel better.
Most people think that their improving confidence is due simply to their improved appearance, but this is very limiting. In fact, this is where things become more complicated.
One of the reasons people feel more confident after a workout is due to the antidepressant-like effects associated with something called runner's high; this releases serotonin and makes you feel ecstatic. That’s the simple version.
The more in-depth explanation is that working out causes a drop in stress hormones; from the expense of energy, we get more energy and clarity.
People with depression and anxiety will find that exercise can clear their head as it makes chemicals in the body and brain work together.
A study in Stockholm showed that the antidepressant effects of running were also associated with increased cell growth in the hippocampus.
The hippocampus is part of the brain that also helps people with learning and memory skills. Exercise makes people feel more at ease and relaxed, which is also why it helps clear a person’s head.
In a way, it’s like letting the bad vibes out and letting your body create good ones to take over. People can literally run off a bad attitude and mood and come back refreshed, happier, more stimulated and with a clearer state of mind.
Nourishment, connections and prevention
Exercise and the brain are related: you really can’t exercise without stimulating the brain. The body and brain are put into a healthy form of overdrive where exercise affects the brain on multiple tiers—ironically, like a cake.
Exercise increases heart rate, which in turn pumps more oxygen to the brain, which not only stimulates it, but also helps to release a mass amount of hormones.
These hormones then help to provide nourishment to the growth of brain cells. Continuous exercise encourages the stimulation of new connections and growth in the most important areas of the brain.
Another layer to exercise is increased strength in muscle cells, which also help your brain with reaction time.
Recent studies have shown that people who exercise more are at a lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s due to the increase of muscular strengthening and brain nourishment that they get compared to people who do not exercise.
Diseases and health conditions can also potentially improve—if not be prevented—with exercise.
Many people are worried about heart disease, high blood pressure and several other diseases and health issues, but being active boosts high-density lipoprotein, more commonly known as good cholesterol.
This decreases unhealthy triglycerides, which means that your blood flows smoothly and healthily, which results in a lower risk of several diseases.
In contrast, people who don’t exercise will have a slower and less powerful blood flow due to more triglycerides in the arteries.
How it all comes together in daily life
Working out provides night and day results—quite literally. While it may seem natural to run low on energy and sleep these days, both are required for a healthy life.
This is why exercise is such a good pick-me-up. Exercise is something that, if done during the day, helps to decrease stress and increase clarity to help you through your day.
It also helps to calm your mind at night so that you can sleep better.
Oddly enough, exercise done in the morning or during the day will have the opposite effect by providing you with more energy.
It’s like Ying and Yang: you need exercise for energy in the day, but also for healthy sleep at night—all while improving your mental clarity and health.