We’re all aware that movement is important for your mental and physical health, but are you aware of the reasons why it is so important? Did you know that when you move your body, you're actually exercising both your body and your mind?
Words: Lotte Bregendahl Laursen
Movement and brain health are inherently interconnected, and research suggests that physical exercise is just as beneficial for the brain as it is for the body. While your brain is the control center for the body, the body also directly impacts the functionality and health of the brain. Want proof? Several studies show that engaging in exercise can play an important role in reducing anxiety and depression, improve mood, boost self-esteem, minimize stress, and enhance cognitive functioning. Moving your body literally boosts the brain. Here’s an introduction to five important ways in which movement can benefit your mental health:
"Regular exercise is one of the tools that has the power to both decrease and prevent depression – helping the body and brain to relax and de-stress".
Increases brain size: Exercise makes the existing structures in your brain healthier, but did you know that exercise can increase the size of the brain? Exercise works as a stimulator for the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which facilitates the growth of new connections in the brain and improves the health of existing neurons. Mindful movement, like yoga and pilates, has been found to increase the volume of the brain regions associated with memory, reasoning, and learning.
Prevents memory loss: When moving, you increase oxygen and blood circulation throughout the body – the brain included. Improved blood circulation in the brain translates to elevated mood and cognitive functioning. Studies have shown that working out twice a week can prevent the cognitive decline that typically happens with age, like memory loss and brain functionality.
Improves sleep: Having trouble sleeping? Mindful movement indirectly boost mental health by improving your sleep patterns – both the quality and quantity of your sleep. Engaging in movement during the day increases the amount of time spent in deep sleep during the night. Spending more time in the restorative sleep stage not only enhances your immune system functionality, it can also help manage stress and anxiety.
Reduces anxiety and depression: Mindful movement produces an anti-anxiety effect in the brain. This happens through the activation and replenish of GABA, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in the body’s response to stress. Regular exercise is one of the tools that has the power to both decrease and prevent depression – helping the body and brain to relax and de-stress.
"While your brain is the control center for the body, the body also directly impacts the functionality and health of the brain".
Boosts mood: When working out you enhance chemicals in the brain – like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine – all of which are associated with improved and decreased stress. When we boost our heart rate, our body releases endorphins, resulting in a boost of energy and improved mood. By exercising, your mood can be significantly enhanced by the brain learning to naturally produce these mood-enhancing substances, reducing the stress hormone cortisol.
This is a genuine mind-body connection; what impacts your body impacts your brain and vice-versa. Therefore, movement is essential to your mental health. By engaging in movement, you can change and boost your brain functions and structure, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and improve enhanced cognitive functioning, mood, and energy. While it’s always important to recognise that each individual responds uniquely to exercise, using physical movement as a mechanism can enhance your brain for optimal wellness. So be curious – try out different forms of movement and find the form that suits your body and mind.
"By engaging in movement, you can change and boost your brain functions and structure, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and improve enhanced cognitive functioning, mood, and energy".
Want to try out mindful movement and start your wellness-journey today? Then sign up for my online universe "Move Mindfully Online". You'll have access to pilates and yoga videos and be able to practice and move from exactly where it suits you and when it suits you. Furthermore, you'll have access to live videos twice weekly, moving with like-minded people and creating collective joy and energy. Sign up today by following this link.
I can't wait to move with all of you guys - physically as well as mentally.