For most of the fitness industry’s existence, the physical benefits of exercise have been touted. While those remain important, a growing body of research has catalyzed an exciting conversation about the mental benefits of exercise. The last few years have shown us that regular physical activity can make our bodies AND our brains much healthier and happier. Consider the following thorough (but incomplete) list of cool things exercise can do for your body’s super computer:
· Regular exercise has been show to increase concentrations of norepinephrine in the brain –- a really important neurotransmitter that helps the brain cope with stress. So more exercise = less stress
· Physical activity has also been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of clinical depression. Just moving your body around has the capacity to make you happier.
· Exercise can also help keep your brain in shape throughout old age – and prevent some of the cognitive decline we all assume happens when we get older. Studies have shown that people who exercise have less brain shrinkage and decay in white matter (two components key in brain function) in advanced age.
· Since most of us are knowledge workers these days, this one’s especially important – if you’re facing writer’s block or are just generally creatively stumped, exercise can get those juices flowing again. Some research has shown that people who exercise can access an increased boost in creativity for up to two hours after completion of a workout
· Another important one for anyone stuck behind a desk for most of the day: physical activity can have amazing effects on your professional output. Research has shown that employees who walk at least 10,000 steps a day report boosts in energy, productivity, and job satisfaction (probably why all our FitBits and JawBones tell us to walk that many steps!)
Physical activity has the power to improve virtually every aspect of our lives. The important thing to keep in mind is that exercise should be used in service of our goals – it’s a tool to help us get where we want to go. Whatever our dreams or demands happen to be – battling the blues, finishing a memoir, tackling tough client demands – exercise can improve and hone our abilities to accomplish those things. Because exercise has the ability to better our minds, by extension is has the ability to help us hone our identities – our overall sense of who we are, and who we want to become.