There’s so much more to exercise than weight loss, toned glutes and a strong punch (but hey, those are some major benefits!). It’s proven that exercise not only trains your body but also trains your brain; there are multiple studies that show how endurance actually boosts brainpower. Getting your daily dose of exercise doesn’t have to be a major time commitment – even around your house! These are the top 10 ways that exercise can improve your life beyond solely the physical:
1. Mind Body Connection
This connection is what all of the other benefits stem from. Do you feel a connection or awareness of your body when you’re sitting at your desk or driving in your car? Probably not, this is when we tend to be the most mindless. When you exercise you’re practicing vinyasa, which means placing your body in mindful and special ways. You can acknowledge what feels good and what doesn’t. Your mind and body are actually having a conversation rather than confrontation.
We’ve all heard the three-word mantra from power trainers and athletes, FEEL THE BURN. Exercise gives you discipline. Discipline helps you work harder through pain, struggle, and all of the crazy mind-stuff that pops up during our days. End of day deadline on a huge project that can determine your promotion? We need to understand the healthy practice of discipline in order to [positively] power through the burn and see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Harder, better, faster, stronger. There is no doubt that exercise boosts our self-confidence and makes us feel good. It gives us a sense of self-worth and achievement. You feel stronger and you are stronger. You feel sexy and you are sexy! This feeling of confidence is something that glows from miles away.
A study in Perceptual and Motor Skills shows that women performed 20 percent better on memory tests after running on a treadmill than they did before exercising. Research has even linked children’s brain development with a level of physical fitness (recess, anyone?). Additionally, there are specific exercises that can actually help you train your brain for better memory – dance, step, zumba – all of these classes require memorization of sequences, which will directly strengthen memory.
We already know that exercise gets your brain moving – which in turn, lets your creative juices flow. I know that I personally come up with some of my most creative ideas while I’m out for a run or on my bicycle. You feel so empowered while you’re doing a really intense work out, it’s almost like, imagine the possibilities. Yes, cliché, but true!
6. Alleviates Anxiety
A study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine found that exercise actually improves your outlook on life. A group of 18- to 25-year-olds reported an immediate positive change in mood after riding a stationary bike for 20 minutes, which lasted up to 12 hours. There’s a reason yoga is associated with the word Zen and “runners high” is a thing, after all.
7. Improves Learning Ability
The hippocampus is an area in the brain closely associated to learning and memory. Research has discovered that the hippocampus is especially receptive to new neuron growth (neurogenesis) in response to endurance exercise. High-intensity workouts actually jump-start neurogenesis. Beginning in our late 20s, most of us will lose about 1 percent annually of the volume in the hippocampus. So, get up and move!
8. Increases Productivity
Exercising naturally makes you a more productive person. It’s not easy to find the time and dedication to really hit the gym 4 to 5 times per week. Most of us will either wake up earlier or go to sleep later, forcing us to organize our day in a more efficient way. It might even make an early riser out of you!
Are you the type of person who always needs a workout buddy to start moving? There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you seldom have a workout buddy and use it as a subconscious excuse. Working out with friends or trainers who push you harder is great, but there is something liberating about going out on your own and pushing yourself. Once you become comfortable with the idea of exercising, it’s a great time of the day for you to be completely independent and selfish. It almost becomes a sacred time of day.
The nine points mentioned above coupled with a healthy physical body can increase your happiness and quality of life by 100%. Seriously. So, stop making excuses and start making positive lifestyle improvements that will radically change your life for good!
Sam Negrin is an avid yogi (and RYT) in Los Angeles. She is also the Content Manager of LEAFtv – a fresh, easy to consume, how-to concept covering all things living, eating and fashion.