Being active has been shown to have many health benefits, both physically and mentally.
Exercise offers incredible benefits that can improve nearly every aspect of your health from the inside out.
Before we get into the evidence-based benefits from exercise, how did exercising and 'running' became such a common healthy pastime?
I had recently picked up the autobiography of the creator of Nike, Phil Knight, called 'Shoe Dog'.
There is a particular paragraph about the beginnings of recreational “jogging” that immediately caught my attention (while making me laugh).
Here’s the excerpt:
“... in 1965, running wasn’t even a sport. It wasn’t popular, it wasn’t unpopular—it just was. To go out for a three-mile run was something weirdos did, presumably to burn off manic energy. Running for pleasure, running for exercise, running for endorphins, running to live better and longer—these things were unheard of.”
What’s stranger than this was how the world slowly caught on to the idea of jogging and exercising for fun. And soon, it became the cool thing to do.
So cool in fact, even famous celebrities were jumping in on the nationwide craze… as can be seen in People Weekly’s July 4, 1977 front cover photo.
It's strange to think that something we now consider as completely normal was once seen as quite the crazy phenomenon. As now we know a bit of physical activity might just be the most important thing you can do to keep your body and brain in great shape.
If exercising was a drug – we would say the effects were just way too good to be true! It keeps us smarter, happier, feeling healthy and helps to keep us living longer lives. In fact, In a study done on over 1 million young healthy adults, people found exercise raised their IQ (1)
“Exercise seems to be good for practically every function in the brain and body”
- Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology at The University of California. Los Angeles.
Anyone who’s felt a “runner’s high” — or just felt a bit better after the gym — has experienced the way exercise elevates neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, which are critical for regulating mood, motivation, and feelings of reward and pleasure. It also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. But physical exercise does so much more…
The benefits of exercise backed by science:
Exercise helps with decision making, speeds up reaction times, upgrades mental energy, promotes creativity, enhances memory and improves concentration! (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
- It boosts attention, learning, memory and mental processing speed. (9) (10) (11)
Being physically active for 2.5 hours a day can improve sleep quality by 65%! That’s like turning a quick 5hr sleep into the quality of a 8 and a quarter hour doze!! (12)
Exercising helps to make you happier, both now and in the long term. (13) (14)
Working out can help you control your emotions, shake off bad moods, and become more emotionally intelligent and resilient. (15) (16) (17)
- It can lessen stress and anxiety and can even reduce depression (18) (19) (20)
It can boost energy; reduce feelings of fatigue and make you feel more enthusiastic and motivated (21) (22) (23)
Improves self-esteem and libido to make you feel good, look good, and want to get jiggy with it! (24) (25) (26) (27)
Upregulates production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) – an amazing protein that stimulates new brain cell formation and more brain power. (28)
Increases the brain chemicals which make you feel good (serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine) while reducing the stress hormone (cortisol). (29) (30)
“What type of exercise is best for my brain?” I can hear you asking!
Most of the research has been done on moderate aerobic exercise like jogging, but recent evidence suggests that weightlifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are good for you too.
People who experience the biggest gains in their fitness often have the biggest cognitive changes as well.
A light walk will improve your mood, but you need higher intensity exercise to enjoy the full cascade of cognitive benefits!