Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic:
At the beginning of the year, I told myself I’d be hitting the gym a lot more often. The goal was to stay active and keep those extra pounds at bay. The first few weeks were great! I was jogging at least three times a week and lifting weights as often as I could. Sure, I was a little tired when I’d get home, but I was feeling better both physically and mentally.
Unfortunately, as the year went on, I started cutting back on the exercise and soon I was on the couch every day after work. Needless to say, I have tacked on a few extra pounds but I am also a lot sadder than usual. I just can’t explain why. I really don’t like the way I’ve been feeling, so hopefully I can regain that motivation I had at the beginning of the year.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, you’ve probably heard all the classics. There’s the “I want to save more money,” “I want to make more friends,” and the timeless “I want to travel more”. But the all-time favorites are losing weight and exercise more. These resolutions can arise for a variety of reasons, but most of them have to do with our physical appearance and perhaps our health. The truth is many of us have trouble following through with the exercise resolution. Perhaps, to keep things going the entire year, we need to understand the positive effects physical activity can have on our minds.
It’s a No-Brainer
Chances are you’ve shuffled through the tabloids and celebrity magazines while waiting at the cash register. As you looked at the six packs and bikini bodies, you might have felt sad or inadequate when comparing your body to these “ideal” images. Improving your physical appearance isn’t going to solve all your problems, but seeing results as you put effort in at the gym can work wonders for your mind!
The sense of accomplishment or discovering a newfound sense of confidence is an amazing mood enhancer and strengthens your mental health. According to some studies highlighted by Sarah Gingell Ph.D., physical activity has been found to:
- Reduce the likelihood of depression
- Maintain good mental health as we age
- Assists with mild to moderate dementia
- Assists with mild to moderate anxiety
Through the years, researchers have found that physical activity can have a whopping effect on our overall brain health. Some of these benefits include:
- An increase in blood flow leading to improved cerebrovascular health
- The release of neurotrophic factors that produce new neurons (brain cells)
- Improved glucose and lipid metabolism, which nourishes the brain
Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, discovered that exercise helps with the integrity of white matter in the brain. White matter, as explained by Christopher Bergland, allows communication between different parts of the brain. This is important because the stronger and more efficient the connections are, the better your brain will work! White matter helps with improved cognitive (thinking and processing) performance.
Here to Help
The New Year comes with new beginnings and Rice Psychology Group is here to help every step of the way. Whether you’re ready to feel better, need some help with motivation or accountability, or are looking to understand the changes you’re going through, our Tampa psychologists are ready to assist. For more information about our services, or to make an appointment, give us a call in Tampa today.