Numerous scientific studies have outlined the physical benefits of exercise. People who exercise tend to live longer, more active lives. They have fewer health issues, maintain a healthier weight and enjoy improved energy levels. With regular exercise, the amount of fat in the body is reduced and the amount of muscle is increased; your body is at its best when kept active.
Many people who exercise are simply seeking the physical benefits with an end goal in mind. However, an increasing number of people looking to derive emotional and mental benefits have taken up exercise as well. As a result, exercise forms a strong mind-body connection, making it at as good for you mentally as it is physically. In fact, studies have shown that because exercise increases the micro blood vessels in the brain, exercising can actually help birth new cells, increasing intelligence and cognitive functions.
Perhaps the most recognizable exercise form that focuses on the mind-body connection is yoga. Yoga has been in existence around the world for thousands of years, but only became popular in western cultures in the late 1990’s. The discipline’s focus on self-reflection and sensory awareness coupled with controlled breathing and the flow of personal energy makes yoga a fundamentally mind-body pursuit. In fact, in many yoga classes, participants are asked to make their mind a blank or to focus solely on specific images during particular exercises, demonstrating the close relationship between the body and the mind.
Various forms of martial arts are also said to heavily explore this mind-body connection, both improving physical health while reducing stress. Tai chi is an example of great mind-body exercise and has been around for centuries. It involves slow, fluid movement and can benefit virtually anyone – regardless of physical shape. It improves strength, flexibility and balance while helping reduce stress significantly. However, it is not just people who take exercise classes based on Eastern philosophies that can experience some of the best benefits of exercise.
Life can get pretty stressful, and many people have more items to cross off of their to-do list each and every day. Prolonged levels of stress within the body cause adrenaline to flood the system. Muscles tense, tempers grow short and sleep quality suffers. The long term effects are even more damaging. Health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease have a direct correlation to stress. This is because many unhealthy stress-relieving activities, such as drinking alcohol, lack of sleep and poor diet are contributors to high blood pressure.
Stress is an inevitable component of modern life. While it may be unavoidable, there are nonetheless ways to cope effectively with it. Exercise is one of the best methods to minimize stress. It provides for a natural release of pent up tension, and often leads to a relaxed state that is difficult to duplicate otherwise.
Additionally, people who work out on a regular basis tend to feel more organized and more in control of their lives. Some people even exercise simply for the joy of it. Others recognize the relaxation benefits without necessarily practicing yoga or Tai chi. No matter what kind of physical activity you enjoy, the mind calming effects will be sure to follow.
In some studies, scientists have even concluded that exercising can improve the function and structure of the brain. They found that exercise can make learning easier and enhance memory and attention spans. Scientists explain that aerobic activity pumps more blood throughout the body, including the brain’s tissues. This translates to the brain tissues receiving extra oxygen, providing extra nourishment. Exercise may even help generate new brain cells and can allow brain cells to connect and communicate better than before.
When it comes to exercise, it’s virtually impossible to separate the mind from the activity of the body. Mindful exercise practices like yoga can effectively reduce stress, but almost any physical activity can improve the functioning of the brain and overall well-being. With benefits like these, biking, hiking, swimming, jogging, and taking up a sport just gets more enticing.