Here at Strong Imperfect Mind I talk a lot about mental health. This is partly because I think it is an area of the health & fitness industry that often gets overlooked. However, that isn’t to say I am not also all about physical health as well, I 100% am!
What I am saying is, that in my view – and neuroscience backs me up here! – we need to focus on both our mental and physical fitness in order to live our happiest, healthiest lives. While you are probably already aware of the benefits of regular exercise on your body, you might not know about the remarkable effects it also has on your mind. So here is exactly how physical, mental and emotional health can be improved through exercise.
Effects Of Exercise On The Body
Improves Strength & Stability
Exercise is important for maintaining (and improving) strength and stability. Why does that matter you might ask. Well, I shall tell you for why! According to Heathline.com, “Inactive adults experience a 3 to 8 percent loss of muscle mass per decade. That’s quite a remarkable amount considering we need muscles for just about everything we do. The stronger your muscles, the easier it is to carry your shopping bags home, give piggy backs to your children, run for the bus…(the list is pretty much endless!)
Strength in turn helps with stability. It improves the core muscles that stop you from falling over, and generally keeps you from injuring yourself doing everyday activities.
Furthermore, studies have shown that increasing muscle strength has a positive impact on bone density. In other words, it reduces the risk of osteoporosis (the condition which weakens bones, making them more likely to fracture).
So, at a purely physical level, exercise has clear benefits.
Works Your Heart
Exercise is great for the heart and cardiovascular system. By strengthening your heart, you allow it to beat more efficiently, which lowers your blood pressure. Exercise also improves blood circulation around the body, which lowers your risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke. Try to incorporate aerobic activity into your workout regime – anything that raises your heartbeat and makes you out of breath is good. Dance is a great mixture of cardio and resistance workout, I’d recommend you give it a go!…
When I say stamina, I am referring to both physical and mental stamina.
Physical stamina refers to your heart and lungs working well during intense activity. Both supply the body with oxygen. High physical stamina allows you to perform everyday tasks without fatigue, it improves your overall fitness levels – reduced risk of heart disease, lower stress levels – and improves your metabolism. In fact, people with low stamina levels are at risk of weight gain, diabetes and hypertension.
Exercise also improves mental stamina. It allows you to push through those difficult moments of, “I can’t do this” and makes you feel great when you do manage. This means it becomes easier to face tough or challenging situations – it’s great for your mindset!
Regular exercise can help prevent chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. You’ve already seen how it can help improve heart health, but here’s how it can help improve/prevent diabetes. Exercise normally lowers glucose levels in your blood and it also improves insulin sensitivity. This means the body produces enough insulin to metabolise blood sugar levels.
Exercise also helps boost your immune system by allowing white blood cells to move freely through the body and do their job efficiently. There have also been studies which suggest it helps with the production of the cells responsible for attacking the types of bacteria often to blame for respiratory infections.
Effects Of Exercise On The Brain
So, we’ve seen the effects on physical health, let’s take a look at how mental and emotional health can be improved through exercise.
Stress Relief & Happiness
A study reported on by the Journal of Neuroscience suggested that, based on their findings using rats, regular exercise actually helps the brain respond better to stress and anxiety.
Exercise releases endorphins and increases serotonin levels. These are chemicals in the brain which reduce stress and boost our mood. Exercise also releases dopamine into the brain – the feel-good chemical associated with pleasure and reward. You also experience this pleasure hit when you eat chocolate, or cuddle with a loved one – Awww!
We live in a world where we constantly complain about being tired, and our caffeine dependence is made into Instagrammable memes. But this isn’t at all healthy. Rather than reaching for a cup of coffee, we should put on our trainers and get moving.
A study by the University of Georgia shows that regular exercise has a significant impact on energy levels. The release of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin all contribute to an increase in energy levels.
According to sleep.org, “As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise […] can dramatically improve the quality of your nighttime sleep”. It may be that exercise helps you sleep better because it reduces your stress levels. There is also a suggestion that exercise helps strengthen our circadian rhythm – the one that controls how awake we feel in the morning, and sleepy at night.
Helps Brain Cell Growth
According to research carried out on rats, those raised in large spaces and encouraged to run around had a larger number of glia cells covering their brain. Glia cells help provide nutrients and oxygen to the neurons, so they’re pretty important for our brain function! And the more of them there are, the better job they do.
Regular aerobic exercise seems to increase the size of the hippocampus – the area in the brain responsible for verbal memory and learning. It also appears to cause the release of a protein which improves growth of neurons. These neurons are vital for information transmission in the brain.
Grow New Synapses
As we get older, synapse function decreases and synapses are lost. However, studies have shown that exercise can be used as a way to increase the number of synapses in the brain. Just as exercise has an effect on the neurons related to memory and learning, synapses are important because of the role they play in memory. Exercise, therefore, helps decrease cognitive decline as we get older.
So, it seems clear that physical, mental and emotional health can be improved through exercise…which is why I’ve created the Strong Imperfect Mind Health & Happiness Course. It’s a mixture of dance fitness, resistance training, mindfulness and healthy eating. Combined together it aims to help you feel fitter, healthier, calmer and, of course, happier.
Sign up below!
Speak soon, Harriet xxx