The importance of exercise for mind-body connection

| May 9, 2018

In this modern day and age, with our fast paced lifestyles, many people seem to have forgotten the importance of physical activity. There is a number of reasons why you shouldn’t neglect this vital aspect of your life.

Not only does physical exercise help people gain muscle while shedding fat, but a study by the University of British Columbia emphasizes its positive effects on the brain. A regular aerobic workout helps the hippocampus grow, boosting our learning capacity and memory.

Even working out for just a half an hour a day brings many benefits.

Exercise boosts your confidence

Looking good on the outside helps us feel good on the inside. Workout sessions allow us to set and achieve worthwhile goals, be it 20 pushups, jogging for 30 minutes or a series of tough stretches.  Once you reach that goal, you not only feel better and more confident about your posture and your appearance, but may also begin to set more positive goals in other aspects of your life.

In this way, just as your self-esteem gets a boost from improving your self-image, so the rest of your life may benefit. Some studies have found that aerobic classes are a great way to raise woman’s confidence, while soccer or basketball can build men’s self-esteem. Physical activity not only improves the way we look to others, but the way we feel about ourselves.

Exercise reduces stress

Physical exercise has always been a natural remedy for stress and anxiety. Many doctors will advise exercise as an effective counter to mild depression or anxiety, and, unlike conventional medication, it only has positive side effects.  Any type of workout encourages the brain’s ability to cope with stress by producing norepinephrine.

Along with a good diet and regular exercise, proper sleep is also vital to good health and exercise helps us sleep better by creating physical fatigue while relieving stress. Indeed a regular workout can be more effective than a sleeping pill, as well as being much better for you.

Exercise gives you energy

Many people claim they’re too tired after work and family duties to exercise, but even a brisk walk can make you feel more energized. When we have more energy, we get more things done and feel better about ourselves and our day.

Strenuous muscle building requires protein to help us recover from our workouts, but even vegetarians and vegans can ensure they have all the protein they need.  Health experts recommend an intake of 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of lean bodyweight, for example, which can be sourced from meat, milk and vegan protein supplements.

Exercise improves your mood

Workouts not only improve our ability to work, but our enjoyment of our play.  While the first jog or visit to the gym may feel tortuous, regular exercise soon becomes both routine and enjoyable.  You don’t have to run a marathon to enjoy the benefits of greater endorphin production, which can make you happier than your sedentary peers.

A good workout is an especially effective weapon against depression when undertaken outdoors, rather than the thumping confines of a gym. Ditching the treadmill – and the phone – to walk or run outdoors on trails or parks can offer valuable time for mental relaxation as well as physical exertion.

Exercise combats addictions

The production of another vital substance, dopamine, is increased while working out. This substance is associated with the feeling of pleasure one gets when consuming food, alcohol or drugs. People who are struggling to escape problems caused by over-consumption can often ease their cravings and find new purpose through exercise.  Some even find their body and mind achieve a natural high without any dangers to their health.

Exercise slows age-related mental decline

With time, our cognitive skills can start to deteriorate, as much through lack of use as the ravages of time.  Regular exercise of the body as well as the brain may help keep us sharp well into old age.  Gentle forms of outdoor exercise, such as walking, not only help older people stay active, but encourage social interaction and engagement.

Exercise connects your mind and body

Whichever activity you opt for – taking a walk rather than the car, jogging, swimming, cycling, resistance training or even doing household chores with extra vim and vigor – you can be assured you’re doing yourself some good.  Any type of regular workout affects our confidence and mood in a positive manner as well as improving our physical health.

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Victoria is a journalist and fitness enthusiast. She has a B.Sc. in nutrition and even spent a few years working as a personal trainer. When she’s not writing, she tries to squeeze in as much traveling as she can to discover new inspiration.