#1 Exercise helps you think more clearly and remember more.
These benefits are believed to be largely due to a substance called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is something like ‘miracle-grow’ for your brain. BDNF maintains the health of your existing neurons (brain cells), stimulates new ones to grow, and also encourages the formation of connections between the neurons (called synapses), which are crucial for learning and long-term memory formation.
#2 Exercise improves your mood!
BDNF is also believed to play a significant role in the mood-boosting effect of exercise, probably helped out by endorphins and noradrenaline, which are also stimulated by exercise.
Working out regularly doesn’t just protect you against becoming depressed in the first place; it provides significant relief of depressive symptoms, both in people diagnosed with depression and those who are just going through a rough patch.
#3 Exercise relieves anxiety and panic attacks.
A workout relieves anxiety both in people who are particularly prone to it all the time (called ‘trait anxiety’) and those who are just temporarily worried about an upcoming event (called ‘state anxiety’).
#4 Exercise provides you with interim rewards that sustain long-term goals.
Staying focused on long-term goals can be difficult when the reward is so far off in the future. But exercise provides immediate rewards, both in terms of the mood-lifting effect mentioned above, and the palpable improvement in fitness that occurs day by day. Each time you exercise, you’ll notice you can walk a little further; go uphill a bit faster; lift a little more weight; stretch just a little further… and this sense of progress will sustain you when the scales and mirror are telling you that you’re still a long way from where you want to be.
#5 Exercise redefines your sense of possibility.
Many of my clients struggle with limiting beliefs about what they’re capable of. Much of their ill-health and unhappiness is attributable to them feeling ‘stuck’ – whether in jobs that stifle their creativity; relationships that don’t nurture them; or just habits of living that sabotage their well-being. What keeps them stuck is the sense that they are incapable of changing.
Psychologists call it ‘low self-efficacy’ – it’s the belief that nothing you do makes any difference to what happens to you in life, so why bother even trying to make things better? This belief gives rise to thoughts such as “I’ll never get to my goal weight,” and feelings of despair, hopelessness and powerlessness. Exercise helps to fix this because it changes your sense of what is possible for you.
Article from Hopewood contributor Robyn Chuter.