Updated: Oct 25, 2020
Lifestyle 1 - Exercise
It’s puzzling to think about why people often resist developing an exercise habit. You don’t have to become a gym rat or dedicated athlete in order to reap the extensive benefits of adding even a small amount of exercise to your life. Of course, if you love to work out and be active, you may find that to be something you want to build more of into your life. However, it’s not “all or nothing” when it comes to the benefits of exercise: a little goes a very long way.
Any exercise you pursue for 20 minutes a day can have a remarkable impact.
Start your day with a little yoga, take a walk for lunch, or play golf with friends. Obviously, if you want to train for a marathon or climb a mountain, you’ll need to do more than a few minutes a day. But the barriers we put up to developing an exercise habit are just another example of Limiting Beliefs, such as how much time it demands or how out of shape we feel we are right now. If you want to overcome what holds you back so you can truly love your life, exercise is a great habit to start with. That’s because it’s a habit that benefits you so greatly that it actually leads to change in other areas. You’ll be improving your health, energy, concentration, and motivation almost without realizing it!
There is no better way to clear a crowded mind than to exercise.
In his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, author and Harvard physician John Ratey stated, “Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain….it is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning.” That’s pretty powerful! Exercise can help you shovel out the negative thoughts accumulated in your mind and change your focus, creating space for new levels of joy, clarity, gratitude and freedom. It’s fascinating that exercise can also have an effect on how you learn, how quickly you learn, and how much you retain. A sedentary lifestyle robs us of so much!
Exercise helps you process stress, reduce stress, and even reverse the damage of stress!
If you feel old before your time, pay attention: the signs of stress and wear on your body don’t have to be permanent. A study done by the University of California found that even moderate amounts of exercise, done in a habitual way, worked on a cellular level to reduce the number of cells damaged from the aging process. The same study revealed an interesting element regarding “ruminators”: those who tend to relive their stress by thinking about it over and over again. It showed that working out alternated blood flow to the brain to other areas, reducing the triggers to think the same thoughts repeatedly.
Taking deep breaths heals your body, mind and spirit.
When you get your heart rate up through aerobic exercise, you start to breathe heavier and more frequently. This is good news for your body in a lot of ways. That increased blood flow delivers fresh oxygen and carries away toxins: the human body is designed to release 70% of toxins through breathing! Oxygenation helps relieve anxiety, reduces carbon dioxide levels in the blood, and improves muscle tone and posture. Oxygen reduces pain, as well as reducing your risk of several major disease and cancers.
Those who work out are happier than those who don’t.
Exercise has been proven to elevate levels of all the “feel good” hormones our bodies make:
· Serotonin: Healthy levels of this hormone prevent depression, make us feel happy, and regulate the stability of our moods. Our brains release serotonin when we’re out in the sun, eat carbohydrates, and exercise.
· Dopamine: Grouchy, distracted people are almost always low on dopamine; this is the hormone that helps us concentrate, pay attention, and feel content. When we don’t exercise or eat enough protein, we become low on dopamine.
· Endorphins: Our bodies love to release endorphins! Doing so helps us feel less anxious, less sensitive to pain, and experience more feelings of optimism and confidence. Exercise helps our bodies release the endorphins it’s been storing up!
And it’s more than just a feeling of happiness—there’s real brain chemistry happening here. Another brain chemical, GABA, has been shown in studies to rise commensurate with the amount of exercise done. In one study, those who did just 3 sessions of yoga a week showed higher levels of GABA than those who did not. The effect of more GABA includes a good mood and lower anxiety. But their brains were actually different too! Regions of the brain that had previously shown damage from depression appeared to have a repair process underway: neurons were growing active molecules that improve the connection between nerve cells, creating a natural antidepressant.
The connection between brain health and exercise is even stronger when it comes to what you remember. The Alzheimer’s Research Center says that rather than miracle medications, it’s actually exercise that is the best weapon against the disease! Can it be that simple? Well, we know that certainly there are other factors that put us at risk for this disease. And we also know that Alzheimer’s rates have risen in direct correlation to unprecedented levels of inactivity in our population. Exercise protects the hippocampus region of the brain, the part that governs our memory and spatial thinking. Even those who are genetically prone to Alzheimer’s can reduce their likelihood of actually developing it by four times as much, just by taking a daily walk or jog.
If you don’t use it, you will definitely lose it.
We’re all fairly acquainted with the degeneration of our bodies and abilities when we never work out. But how long do the benefits last if we’ve done it for awhile and then stop? Unfortunately, not long. We might expect our muscles to flab and our pants to get tight but it turns out the benefits to our blood and brain also expire. “Brain changes are not maintained when regular physical exercise is interrupted”. That was the conclusion of an extensive Neuroscience study by the University of Sao Paulo on the benefits of exercise. Ongoing benefits are only experienced when we create, nurture and maintain exercise as a habit.