The mind-body connection is so intertwined that one’s well-being hinges on the health of both of these major areas of the human organism. An ailing body poses a psychological impact on the otherwise healthy mind. Likewise, an unhealthy mind also impacts a person’s physical health. For an individual to be considered in top form, both mind and body must be in good shape.
A person who wishes to achieve a balanced state of well-being in both mind and body should have a good level of physical activity as part of his lifestyle priorities. People with jobs that demand some cardiovascular and muscle toning movements daily, such as fire fighting; construction work; and farming, are lucky to have some measure of fitness incorporated into their lifestyle. Exercise does not just mean sports-related activities such as running, cycling, or weight lifting. It also encompasses everyday movements that get tasks done like walking to the store, scrubbing floors, and lifting grocery bags. The lowly house chores demand daily muscle movement and cardiovascular toning if one just does some manual cleaning. For instance, floor scrubbing by hand can work your core area and back muscles. Taking out heavy garbage bags and moving furniture also works on your gluts, thighs, arm, core, and back muscles. You just have to know the proper form of deadlifting heavy weights so that you avoid any injury.
What Physical Activity Can Do For Your Mind
Many people underestimate the power of physical activity. There is more to exercise than just muscle strengthening and cardiovascular endurance. The human body is hard-wired to move frequently and the brain responds to these movements. The amount of physical activity we do daily does have an impact on our brains. Daily high levels of physical movements equate to more psychological positivity while an almost daily sedentary lifestyle may play an indirect or direct role in accelerating the degree of mental health issues over time.
Exercise Maintains Our Cardiovascular Health through the Sympathetic Nervous System
Research at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan discovered physical changes in brains of rats which were kept sedentary for three months. These rats’ neurons acquired extra branches that connected to the sympathetic nervous system, part of the brain that controls our involuntary functions like breathing, heart pumping, constriction of blood vessels, and digestion. Too many neuron branches apparently overstimulate the nervous system. Because this system regulates the heart and blood vessels, an overactive sympathetic nervous system can spell hypertension and other cardiovascular illnesses. It can also cause depression, anxiety, and disturbed sleep, among other things. This just goes to show how dangerous long periods of physical inactivity can become.
Those who suffer from depression or anxiety disorder stand to gain a lot from a regular exercise regimen. There is much scientific evidence that physically active people have significantly lower incidences of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Regular exercise helps minds cope with stress and maintain good moods. A ten-minute brisk walk may even help alleviate a low mood, albeit temporary, much like a quick fix for a headache does.
According to a study, people who regularly do vigorous exercise may be 25% less likely to develop depression or anxiety disorder in the next five years. Exercise can actually form part of a therapy for some people who respond quite positively to it. For mild depression, exercise may even take the place of antidepressants as a treatment alternative.
Physical activity stimulates the brain towards the production of endorphins, those feel-good hormones that give one, the “runner’s high.” Endorphins are natural sedatives and analgesics which reduce one’s perception of pain, tamp down stress, boost self-esteem, and improve sleep. Regular exercise then improves mood and maintains it with the constant flow of “euphoric” endorphins.
Regular Physical Activity Promotes Good Sleep
One of the most telling symptoms of depression and anxiety is sleep deprivation. A stressed person usually has a difficult time keeping to a healthy sleeping pattern. Sleep deprivation contributes to fatigue, a form of stress, which exacerbates very low moods, worry, nervousness, and irritability. It also impairs memory, perception, and other cognitive functions.
Regular exercise however has proven to be beneficial to insomniacs in the long term. A study revealed that people with sleep problems reported improved sleep and rest after participating in a four-month long regular exercise program. The key word here is regular because one just cannot expect better sleep patterns after one or two bouts of physical activity. Steady sessions of exercise however builds up the body’s propensity toward better sleeping patterns. This is why many physically active people tend to have better sleep quality than sedentary ones. Better sleep quality translates to better mood states and reduced degrees of anxiety and depression.
Getting the Habit to Move
One has to incorporate some extra physical activity into his daily routine. Instead of riding a car to work, have you thought of walking or biking to it? How about getting that usual cup of coffee from a cafe a little further down your usual route? Once you make a habit out of some extra activities, it would not be that hard to get moving more everyday.