With the body/mind connection better understood these days, it has become clear that totally interconnect. A sedentary lifestyle designed around sitting and often slouching in front of the television or internet robs our nervous systems of its ability to regulate our emotions and to be alert.
Have you ever thought of exercise as a drug? Well, it actually acts like a drug in terms of your neurochemistry. It organizes and balances your nervous system. A daily dose of exercise can calm you down, rev you up, help you concentrate, wind you down into sleep, or help you cope with stress like traffic or screaming kids.
When you exercise vigorously, you feel a settled peace afterwards. This is because vigorous exercise engages your vestibular system (sense of balance), your proprioceptive system (input into your joints and muscles) and tactile deep pressure touch system.
But what happens in the brain with vigorous exercise is probably the most important. Energetic exercise increases your brain-derived neurotropic factor, or BDNF. Those big academic words are about a protein that supports survival in existing neurons, encourages the growth of new neurons, fosters long-term memory formation, and improves mood, all of which literally rewire the brain. This is what is called neuropasticity.
BDNF does many things for the brain. But mainly it strengthens and protects the neurons and encourages them to interconnect and grow. It also turns on genes needed to make serotonin and neurotrophins, which are essential to wellbeing. It helps you build memory and enhances learning. And lastly it prevents overstimulation and gives pleasure sensations. Just be careful about your sugar intake. Sugar depresses BDNF.
Strong exercise creates dopamine receptors in the forebrain making us happier, more motivated, and more successful. The more you exercise, the more pleasurable it becomes. And it defends against various diseases like schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and autism.
Exercise quiets your fear alarm giving you peace and calmness. It helps you have greater control over impulses and thought processes. It increases serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter that keeps you calm and focused. It also minimizes the hormones that give you stress.
Hearty exercise releases chemicals that “fertilize” the brain and boosts macrophages, those immune system warriors that work better with movement. Exercise normalizes insulin resistance and controls mood swings and depression. And it combats anxiety by making your brain more resilient during times of stress.
“Remember that man must preserve his God-given talent of intelligence by keeping the physical machinery in harmonious action. Daily physical exercise is necessary to the enjoyment of health.” Mind, Character and Personality, Vol. 2, Page 375.
Nature Knows Best!