Exercise is obviously great for your body. It shrinks your love-handles, makes you stronger, and you don’t feel winded after climbing the stairs to your office. These advantages to fitness are great but it turns out they are only the tip of the iceberg. The benefits of exercise on the brain might be even greater than on the body!
1. Sharpens Focus
Exercise has been shown to lead to better focus and improved learning to the point where it is being used to mitigate the impact of learning disabilities in school-aged kids. Programs like Sparking Life that encourage children to exercise for 20 minutes before sitting down to learn are gaining popularity because they have been shown to sharpen the minds of the people who participate.
2. Improves Your Mood
The runner’s high isn’t just a made up thing that your friends who jog are using to trick you into going with them. Exercise has long been known to improve a person’s mood. You may not feel like hitting the gym after a frustrating day at the office and a long, rainy commute home, but if you can haul your butt off the couch and get your heart rate up for 20 minutes the stress of the day will seem to fall away.
3. Enhances Creativity
Are you having trouble thinking your way around some situation at work or in your personal life? Hitting the gym could help. Exercise has been shown to improve creativity in the lab, according to the Journal of Sports Medicine. Research participants who participated in bouts of aerobic exercise outperformed those who watched a movie, so it might be worth taking a walk before firing up Netflix.
4. Promotes Growth of Neurons
Until very recently, scientists weren’t sure if the brain continued to generate neurons later in life. It turns out that brain cells do replicate, but much slower than those in the body. One way to speed up the process is to exercise. Research in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that chemicals in the brain promoting growth and flexibility are elevated in people who have just exercised.
5. Fights Dementia
Since exercise has the ability to help the brain learn and grow, it shouldn’t be surprising that it has been shown to be a good treatment in people suffering from dementia. Research participants with dementia in a wide range of studies between 1970 and 2003 demonstrated improved mental function after being treated with exercise programs.
6. Boosts Self-Esteem and Fights Depression
Exercise has also been shown to improve the way we think about ourselves. Time and time again research has shown that breaking a sweat can lead to a happier, more confident outlook. One study published in the Oncology Nursing Forum found that exercise was helpful in reducing feelings of depression and anxiety in a group of cancer survivors; and another in the Journal of Sex Roles showed that the more a person exercises, the higher their self-esteem. What better reason could there be for a lap around the block?
7. Makes You Feel Healthier
Given that after you workout you’ll be in a better mood, more creative, smarter, and more focused it makes sense that you will feel a whole lot healthier too. Research in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine has shown that if you ask people who exercise how they feel about their personal health, the response is overwhelmingly positive. It may be an obvious effect of exercise but don’t underestimate its importance. Feeling good about your health means a lot less stress in your day-to-day life.