There are many factors that contribute to an individual deciding to commit to a healthy lifestyle. Maybe you suffered an injury, and as a result you were prescribed a rehabilitation program. Maybe you have heart health issues, or diabetes, or any other health problems that your doctor has been adamantly instructing you to start exercising and eating more nutritious foods. Or maybe you just want to look and feel good about yourself!
But what goes on in the brain when we exercise, and why is living an active and healthy lifestyle so important to our brain health? First of all, raising your heart rate during aerobic exercise pumps more oxygen to the brain. Just like your muscles, your brain needs oxygen to produce the energy necessary for growth, healing, and proper function. All of these factors are crucial to form, maintain, and stimulate proper neural connections within the brain that impact cognition.
So, how does exercise affect our mental health? To have a healthy mind, you must have a healthy brain! Another huge benefit that exercise has on the brain is an increase in serotonin production. Serotonin is one type of chemical neurotransmitter that delivers signals throughout the brain. The most common types of antidepressants are called a “SSRIs,” which stands for “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.” While SSRIs block the “reuptake” process of serotonin leaving more serotonin available, exercise actually acts as a naturalantidepressant by producing more serotonin.
Not everyone is a morning person, but perhaps it would be easier to drag yourself out of bed and to the gym at the crack of dawn if you understood the benefits. Exercise can help improve your mood while reducing stress levels and anxiety, so knocking out a good work out early in the day is likely to make you feel more relaxed and confident pursuing the day’s tasks.
So let’s talk about confidence. I have never trained an individual or myself and been told afterwards, “I wish I hadn’t worked out. I should have just stayed home.” Never! Exercise is rewarding in so many ways, but it is also empowering. Improvements always take time and dedication, but reaching a fitness goal is one heck of a thing to be proud of. Your body is your gift, treat it well, USE it and it will reward you, physically AND mentally!
-Chelsea Neal, Trainer In PINK