There are as many reasons to exercise as the mind can imagine. Sure, there are a lot of more common rationalizations for exposing oneself to the physical exertion that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. But, for many of us it is literally a choice between physical activity and “going nuts.”
It seems logical that many — if not most — of the best reasons to exercise are physical. They include:
- • Weight Control
- • Heart health
- • Improved immune system
- • Control of type 2 diabetes
- • Improved physique
- • Honing athletic skills
But, physical fitness doesn’t stop with the physical body. The relationship between the physical exercise and the mind might be an even more crucial.
Clinical evidence indicates that aerobic exercise represents both a preventive measure against and an adjunct therapy with antidepressant medication for depressive disorders.
Gets You Thinking
Working out regularly has also been shown to provide lasting improvements in certain cognitive functions, healthy alterations in gene expression in the brain, and beneficial forms of neuroplasticity and behavioral plasticity; some of these long-term effects include: increased neuron growth, increased neurological activity (e.g., c-Fos and BDNF signaling), improved stress coping, enhanced cognitive control of behavior, improved declarative, spatial, and working memory, and structural and functional improvements in brain structures and pathways associated with cognitive control and memory.
Calms The Mind
The psychological advantages to time spent exercising can in-a-large-part be traced to something called endorphins which are like natural occurring sedatives in your body. According to WebMD: “When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain.”
Endorphins have been proven to:
- • Reduce stress
- • Ward off depression
- • Diminish the perception of pain
- • Improve sleep
Speaking of Sleep
Aside for the chemical reaction of the endorphins, it just makes sense that if you physically tire yourself out, you’re more likely to get a good night’s rest.
A 2010 review of published scientific research suggested that exercise generally improves sleep for most people, and helps sleep disorders such as insomnia. The optimum time to exercise may be 4 to 8 hours before bedtime, though exercise at any time of day is beneficial, with the possible exception of heavy exercise taken shortly before bedtime, which may disturb sleep. There is, in any case, insufficient evidence to draw detailed conclusions about the relationship between exercise and sleep.
According to a 2005 study, exercise is the most recommended alternative to sleeping pills for resolving insomnia. Sleeping pills are more costly than to make time for a daily routine of staying fit, and may have dangerous side effects in the long run. Exercise can be a healthy, safe and inexpensive way to achieve more and better sleep.
Makes You Downright Sociable
Working out has its social advantages too like:
• Opportunities to improve relationships with a spouse and /or family while exercising together
• Exercising our pets
• Seeking companionship through mutual interests or memberships (gym, club, or league)
• Fun and recreation
So the next time you’re tossed up about whether to make time for a workout, think about all the psychological and emotional benefits that you’ll be missing out on. And then go get that body moving and put your mind at ease.