Wednesday, July 28, 2021
I’m always hopeful that the word is spreading about how beneficial exercise can be to your heart, lungs, muscles and bones. It’s easy to forget the many other ways that your body benefits from movement. I’ve recently been reading about the neurological effects of exercise and the amazing ways that simple movement can help your brain.
The first step in helping your brain is re-wiring how you think about exercise all together. Rather than exercise being a task (or even a chore) that you need to complete each day, start telling yourself that not exercising would be like not brushing your teeth, making your bed, bathing or eating. The healthiest thing you can do is add exercise to that list.
Over the past 16 months, many of us have had an increase in daily stress and anxiety levels, but exercise is here to help. A single workout – just 10 minutes – increases neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline. Those mood enhancers not only alleviate chronic stress and anxiety, but they also help to keep you focused and on task.
The mental benefits of exercise do not follow the common exercise prescription of sets and reps; we really don’t know how much exercise provides the ideal benefit to your brain. Ultimately, any movement that elevates your heart rate works for a brain boost, including just a walk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator; furthermore, any bout of exercise that feels successful will likely lead to more exercise!
So, what if exercise doesn’t feel successful? That’s okay too, as long as you make it a habit. As a golf instructor, I have met a lot of people with a bad golfing habit, but it doesn’t seem to slow them down and they book another round for next week. In the same fashion, you don’t have to be good at something like exercise, you just have to do it and the benefits will come. If you can accomplish mediocre exercise every day, you’ve accomplished so much more than if you chose not exercising. You’ve created a neural pathway in your brain for a new habit; and I promise that you’ll do “good” at some point. You just need practice.