Exercise Promotes Psychological Health & Good Mood
Memory and cognition are the extra benefits associated with physical fitness.
Exercise is known to dispel depression, and in many cases more effectively than antidepressants. One of the Key ways exercise promotes mental health is by normalizing insulin resistance and boosting natural “feel good” hormones and neurotransmitters associated with mood control, including endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA.
Swedish researchers have ID’s a mechanism by which exercise helps reduce stress and related depression. As it turns out, well-trained muscles have higher levels of an enzyme that helps metabolize a stress chemical called kynurenine.
Their finding suggests that exercising your muscles actually helps rid your body of stress chemicals that promote depression. According to the authors, “in this context the muscle’s function is reminiscent of that of the kidney or the liver,” in that it purges your body of harmful substances.
Other research has also found clear links between inactivity and depression. Women who sat for more than 7 hours a day were found to have a 47% higher risk of depression than women who sat for 4 hours or less per day.
Those who did not participate in any physical activity at all had a 99% higher risk of developing depression than women who exercised. Creativity also gets a boost from physical activity. According to Stanford University researchers a brisk walk can increase creativity up to 60%.
The human brain needs a significant supply of Q2 (oxygen) to function properly, which helps explain why what is good for the heart and cardiovascular system is also good for the brain. Most notably, this includes exercise, and the payoffs can be long-term.
A study looking at the link between exercise, heart health, and brain health found that people who had greater cardiorespiratory fitness in their teens and 20;s scored better on cognitive tests in their mid-40’s and 50’s.
For each additional minute spent on the treadmill during the initial test, he or she was able to accurately recall 0.12 more words at follow-up 25 years later.
Those who were fitter in their early adulthood also scored better on tests designed to assess reaction speed and the mental agility needed to answer trick questions. The impact of fitness was deemed to be independent of other dementia-related risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and smoking.
Once in your 60’s and above, physical movement becomes really Paramount, so this is not the time to fall prey to the couch.
Plenty of research confirms that even if you start exercising at this time, you stand to gain a great deal. It is never too late to start. But perhaps even more important than maintaining an exercise program is to simply move around a lot and avoid sitting as much as possible.
In one study, seniors between the ages of 60 and 80 who were the most physically active showed higher levels of brain oxygenation and healthier patterns of brain activity, particularly in the hippocampus and in connecting different brain regions together.
Such patterns are associated with improved cognitive function.
These seniors were not athletes, they did not even exercise formally, but rather got their activity in the form of walking, gardening, and simply moving about each day, and those who moved the most had significant brain advantages compared to their more sedentary peers.
So, based on the evidence, non-exercise movement may in fact be one of the most important Keys to a long healthy life, because studies have shown that one simply cannot counteract the ill effects of multiple hours of sitting by exercising vigorously for an hour here or there during the week. The cumulative effects of sitting simply take too great a toll on our biology.
For this reason, I strongly suggest walking several times daily, and whenever you can stand up and move around.
There are many ways to rack up movement points like parking further away from the entrance, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, or conduct walking meetings, the options are endless.
Get up, Take a walk, Have a happy day.