Working out has very powerful benefits for both the brain and body and can be especially helpful to people that suffer low mood and depression which can be even more of a battle for so many at this time of year as we experience the shorter, colder darker days.
Our brains have to work more to get us moving so there will always be that little bit of resistance particularly if it is not already an engrained habit to exercise. As depression decreases motivation, it is even harder for those with depression to get moving. But a little bit of understanding of the science can go a long way.
Benefits of Exercise for your Mind and Brain
In addition to the many benefits for the body, getting moving has great benefits for your mind and our overall wellbeing too. It boosts your mood and generally helps alleviate symptoms of depression. Regular aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in memory and learning which also builds enthusiasm and excitement for life. In a range of studies, it is also shown to enhance concentration as well as delay and limit cognitive decline.
Yoga and Meditation help train our minds in the natural ‘relaxation response’ which can counter the feelings of anxiety, tension and heart racing that come with the fight, fright and flight response.
Exercise is also shown to increase creativity and helps us find solutions to problems that are weighing on us. Next time you are stuck on something go for a walk and see what ideas and answers come.
To make it easier to get into a regular exercise routine here are five top tips.
1. Time it well: To introduce any positive habit, start at a time of day when you are at your best – and not at your weakest or most vulnerable and inclined to talk yourself out of it. If you are not a morning person don’t expect yourself to go to the gym or do any activity that is difficult first thing. You can build up to that if you like, but for the first few weeks the most important thing is that you do it. ,
2. Select the best plan for you: Do something that you can do easily both in a logistical sense and that you will enjoy-at least relatively. If you love dancing don’t try and force yourself to go to the gym particularly if it is far away from your home or work place. Walking is great exercise. Start small and build. Even 5 minutes is a great start. It can easily become 20. The recommended amount for all of us is 150 minutes per week.
3. Enjoy exercise with others: Having someone else to motivate you can make it easier to get started. Going for a walk with a friend a few times a week or joining a five-a-side team after work could be just what you need to get you motivated for the first few months. When you have a habit developed you stay doing what you are doing or try something else.
4. Stay positive: Our mind is our best friend or our worst enemy. Be motivational and kind in your own thinking. Think you can and Remind yourself of the benefits and how good you felt the last time you got moving.
5. Just do it: Like the Nike slogan says. Just do it. The feel good benefits of exercise are its own reward. Assess after the fact not before.