Exercise on the brain
Updated: Jun 11
Why do you exercise? Maybe it’s something you think that you ‘have to do’ or ‘ought to do’. Maybe it’s because you’re aware that regular exercise can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, improve your lung function and VO2 Max, and increase your muscle strength and bone density.
Or is it simply because exercise makes you feel good? When considering reasons to keep active, I feel that sometimes the positive benefits to our mental wellbeing can be overlooked. We’re constantly reminded of the wonderful benefits for the body – and of course these are very important. But isn’t it the feeling you get during and after your workout that motivates you to stay active?
During this unusual period, more and more people are realising and feeling the impact that exercise can have on their mental health and wellbeing. Those daily walks and workouts at home or in the garden are cherished because physical activity can hugely enhance the way we feel about ourselves.
How does exercise help us to feel good?
During physical activity, endorphins are released from the brain. This leads to increased mental alertness and energy, and reduced stress and anxiety, which leaves you feeling happier and calmer.
Interestingly, research has shown that the effect of physical activity on a person’s mood was greatest when their mood was initially low. So when exercise is the last thing you feel like doing, it might be just what you need. I’m not suggesting it has to be an intense HIIT workout, research has also shown that modest amounts of gentle activity makes a difference to wellbeing. Get up and go for that walk!
Finally, it’s worth remembering that exercise is important in the long-term too. In addition to the short-term benefits, did you know that exercise also promotes changes in the brain, by stimulating the growth of new connections between different cells? Regular aerobic exercise has been found to improve the health of brain cells that can have a positive impact on your memory and thinking skills. Studies even go as far as to suggest that regular exercise can reduce the risk of dementia by about 30%. Information from the Alzheimer's Society.
As a fitness professional, I’m fortunate to meet many people who enjoy regular exercise. That feel-good sensation they get after a fitness class is so important, as it keeps them coming back for more. I want people to leave my classes feeling happy and energised – it’s my job to make them feel good. Here are the classes I offer in Reading.
So get moving whenever and wherever you can to experience and enjoy the positive effects of physical activity. It’s important for both your body and your mind.
If you enjoyed this blog post then have a read of my post about fun and cheap ways to stay active at home.