THE physical benefits of regular exercise, including increased strength and a lower susceptibility to disease, are well-known.
But most people are still unaware of the proven neurological, psychological and emotional benefits of an old fashioned sweat session.
Here are just four marvelous mental benefits of exercise.
The Tao of exercise
When you reserve time to work out, your mind also gets a relaxing break from the rest of life's worries. This effect is even more pronounced if you actively avoid stress-inducing thoughts while at the gym. Try to focus on your body instead by carefully counting and controlling your footfalls or breaths.
By setting your daily concerns completely aside, you may find you'll later arrive at novel solutions that had previously eluded you. Burn your stress away - literally
These days, stress often seems unavoidable, but regular exercise can physically burn away stress-causing neurotransmitters. Two chief chemical culprits, cortisol and norepinephrine, are both flushed from the brain during even moderate exercise. But be careful, overly intense exercise can stimulate a fight-or-flight response and raise levels of these chemicals in the brain. The good news is everyone can benefit from a brisk walk to sear away stress. Experience "the runner's high"
Regular exercise not only burns away stress-causing agents within the body, it also boosts production of a variety of feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. This may have had evolutionary benefits to early humans who often had to run down their dinner, but in modern times we can experience what is often called "the runner's high" after periods of prolonged, demanding exercise. For some, this feeling of bliss and tranquility can last for hours. Exercise feeds the brain
According to research conducted at Harvard University, starting the morning with moderate exercise helps students to focus and provides them with the best shot at learning new or difficult concepts. This is likely because exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which carries with it oxygen and nutrients that supercharge our mental abilities and even encourage increased neural interconnectivity.
So, the next time you're trying to decide if you have time to fit in a workout, remember that your mind will thank you every bit as much as your body.
Shaun Karp is a certified personal trainer. For further information call his office at 604-420-7800 or visit his website, karpfitness.com.