07 Jan 3 Ways Your Mind Benefits From Exercise
The world has been through an incredibly unique and challenging year, and for the Hospitality industry it has been a rollercoaster. As December rolled around and many industries began to wind down for us the pressure continued to build, Christmas parties (whilst somewhat smaller) were booked and expectations felt higher than ever. Alcohol was flowing and the long hours kept building.
Here we are, January 2021. As we take on a new year and the pace of the industry begins to slow down we have an opportunity to really focus on our health. Mentally we are all drained, it has been a year full of constant change. It is common now for a crash in energy levels and moods to drop. Instead we want to talk to you about how exercise can drastically improve your mental space, take this opportunity to go for a run, maybe try out some yoga or a paddle in the ocean and feel the benefits on your mind.
How does it work? Here are 3 ways your mind benefits from exercise.
What are these magical things that anyone who exercises raves about? Simply, Endorphins are the neurochemicals the body releases when under stress or pain, they are produced mainly in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Endorphins work by engaging with the opioid receptors in our brain, these endorphins therefore reduce pain and increase pleasure in the same way morphine or other opiates do. The natural release comes when the body is placed into acute stress during exercise, this feeling often described as the “runners high” helps encourage a habit of exercising, making endorphins a fantastic replacement for drugs or alcohol.
Eustress and Acute Stress
The human body and mind is designed to handle acute (fight-or-flight) stress far better than we allow ourselves to believe, there are lots of reasons that we can be put into a state of acute stress and while not all are positive, exercise is one that is. During a period of acute stress the autonomic nervous system is activated in which the body experiences increased levels of adrenaline and other hormones, increasing our heart rate and accelerating our breathing. Low levels of acute stress like this help in the production of neurotrophins* and strengthen the connection between neurons, in this way a physical stressor like exercising boosts productivity and concentration. Increased heart rate from stressors of this type increases blood flow, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the brain and improves waste removal.
Setting yourself challenges and goals with exercising is a great way to encourage your mind to experience eustress. Eustress is the form of stress we feel when excited, we experience similar symptoms of acute stress, a quicker pulse and a hormone surge, eustress can also be credited for producing neurotrophins.
Exercise stimulates the growth of new cells in many crucial areas of the brain promoting plasticity, and has been associated with a greater volume of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the region of the brain associated primarily with memory, the hippocampus is known to shrink with age. Exercise leads to the secretion of molecules by muscle and fat cells, these cells accelerate new neuron growth and increase the volume of the hippocampus. Improving the function of the hippocampus promotes improved memory in everyday settings, it has also been shown to offset the deterioration of the brain associated with aging.*
Whether you’re looking for a way to blow off some post December steam that doesn’t leave you hungover or keen to see the long term benefits of exercise on your mind, take this opportunity to get outside and get moving.
*Neurotrophins – A family of proteins that induce the survival, development and growth of neurons.
*Erickson – Feb 15, 2011