Exercise for Your Mind

Health, Home & Family
on March 13, 2005

Most of us are aware of the physical benefits of exercise, but few of us know about the resulting mental nourishment. Physical activity enriches your mind and improves your mental state.

“The mind and the body cannot be separated,” says Dr. George Solomon of the University of California-Los Angeles. “Mental and physical well-being are inextricably intertwined.”

Many of us lose our appetite when under stress. Sometimes it induces headaches, coughing spells or stuttering. Tension causes irritability, anxiety and depression. Other physical signs of mental distress are fatigue, indigestion, rapid heartbeat and vague aches or pains.

There’s a simple proven way to uplift a poor mental attitude. Studies show physical activity reduces anxiety, stress and anger. It brings about a sense of well-being. With all these mental flaws under control or at least reduced, your psychological outlook improves and you are happier.

Studies show people who exercise regularly score higher on mental tests and they even learn faster. The sage who said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” was talking about a couch-potato canine.

Other studies show that physical activity improves memory and suggests any age-related mental decline might be due to poor blood circulation in the brain. Dr. Lydia Brontë, co-editor of Our Aging Society: Paradox and Promise, says many problems of old age are really caused by lack of activity.

Some doctors claim an increased blood flow to the brain enhances all cerebral functions. Without exercise for a long time, blood vessels in the brain shrink and limit blood flow even further. A higher blood flow to the brain from exercise increases the metabolism rate of brain cells. Among other things, this results in faster reaction times. It provides an energy boost and then you can accomplish more.

Excess toxins cause headaches, and sometimes an overworked liver can’t remove toxins fast enough. With exercise, the liver works more efficiently.

Some people like to participate in several exercise routines for variety and to avoid boredom. Consider tai chi, dancing, swimming or aerobics. Try to exercise three to five times a week for between 10 and 60 minutes.

A common activity is walking. Almost everyone can walk a little to start an exercise routine. Since ancient times, walking has enriched our culture. Many poets, philosophers and scientists have been habitual walkers. There’s a reason why many creative people walk. You can either observe the surroundings as you stroll or go on autopilot to engage in introspection or just daydream.

Exercise is gratifying—because you know it burns fat and clears mental cobwebs. It helps improve sleep, stamina, energy and digestion. And it reduces backaches and headaches. It’s good medicine.

Exercise isn’t just good for your heart; it’s also good for your mind.