How Exercise is Good for the Brain and Mental Health
We all know that exercise is good for our bodies but how can it also be good for the brain?
Let’s have a look at the science behind this. Exercising increases your heart rate and your breathing increases. This causes more blood and oxygen to flow to the brain. Of course we know that the brain needs oxygen but it’s not so well known just how much oxygen the brain needs. The brain only accounts for around 2% of your weight but it needs around 20% of your body’s oxygen to properly operate. It’s crucial when exercising to breathe correctly. This means inhaling through your nose, deep into the diaphragm and exhaling through your mouth. By breathing like this, the brain can receive its required amount of oxygen more efficiently and effectively.
Many studies have researched the impact that exercise can have on the brain and these have shown that exercise can have such positive impacts that it may change the physiology of the brain. Exercise helps create new brain cells which can aid the recovery from brain injuries and even slow or reverse the progress of some neurodegenerative diseases.
This is great news but how can exercise help improve our mental health? Cortisol and dopamine are both significant in how the brain functions. Cortisol is a hormone which is associated with feelings of stress, anger and fear. Dopamine is an important brain chemical which allows feelings of satisfaction, pleasure and motivation. When you exercise, your dopamine levels increase whilst your cortisol levels are reduced, creating a more positive mindset. If you start the day with exercise, it helps you maintain a positive attitude throughout the day because the impact exercise has on the brain can have lasting effects. Exercising early in the day helps us to approach situations with a positive outlook. Challenge yourself early and the rest of the day will be no sweat!