EXERCISE IS MEDICINE FOR THE MIND
We’ve known for a while that exercise is key for a healthy life. People who are physically active outlive those who are inactive. In some cases, it can even be as effective as medicine for certain conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
We also know that exercise is critical for our mental health. Regular physical exercise prevents the brain from its natural ageing process, ie shrinking, most probably because getting your blood pumping brings more oxygen, hormones and nutrients to your brain and as a result our mood is lifted, we feel less stressed and so on
The big news is that we are now discovering that certain types of exercise have specific effects on our brain and our wellbeing.
Researchers all over the world studied people over a rather long period of time (sometimes over a year), separated in exercise-type groups and evaluated their brain activity, mood, memory, executive functions (reasoning, planning, problem solving), cognitive capabilities …The results are fascinating and you can see them on the attached brain chart.
There are 2 findings that i would like to highlight:
- Do it or lose it ! We do have to keep practising to maintain these benefits. Regularity is key in the practise of any sport activity.
- Pick & Mix ! It is great to know that if you suffer from depression, Yoga is certainly the best form of exercise or if you are struggling with problem-solving, the answer lies in weightlifting. Exercise is a bit like food : it is important to have a balanced diet, and practice a bit of everything in order to get the full spectrum of benefits
As a Happiness consultant, and from a stress management perspective, i am particularly interested in the effects of Yoga here.
Yoga practise lowers the amygdala activity - the part of the brain responsible for detecting threats and generating fears - and activates the insula - which is responsible for balancing and integrating thoughts and emotions.
It reduces the exaggerated stress response, allows us to see the stress stimuli for what they are, without going into compulsive catastrophic scenario, keeping our mind clear and being able to respond creatively rather than react erratically.
Living in a world where we are constantly triggered by stress, living in a body that has an automatic unconscious response to stress that is detrimental to our physical and mental health, yoga is one of the sure routes to experiencing more happiness.
- Do it or lose it ! Practice regularly
- Pick and mix according to your current needs and challenges keeping in mind that variety is most beneficial
- Yoga : stress, depression, anger
- Weight lifting : problem-solving, multi-tasking, complex thinking
- Sports drills : attention, focus, space awareness
- Aerobics : Memory
- The effects are immediate so take regular breaks in your day, at lunchtime, go out for a walk and come back more focused, take a yoga class and come back calmer, lift those dumbbells and come back on fire for your creative brainstorming session