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People often experience a surge of positivity and energy after going for a run or a yoga session or some other physical exercise. These uplifting feelings have a favorable bearing on both your body and mind.
You feel healthy, confident, alert, and at peace with yourself, empowering you to handle everyday life stressors with more resilience and grace.
Once you embark on a physically active lifestyle, the high you get from the regular exercise helps keep you motivated to stay on track with your health and wellness goals.
These feel-good sensations are just some of the many reasons to be committed to the nourishing benefits of physical activity.
Anatomy of the Brain
The brain is a fascinating, complex system that connects intricately to the body through nerve bundles as well as communicates and processes information rapidly.
The human brain controls various life-sustaining functions of the body through an involuntary system, which means that it operates without concerted thought. These functions include the regulation of heart rate, respiration, and digestion.
At the same time, the brain controls the complex systems of reason, thought, and comprehension, which is consciously activated.
The brain is made up of over one billion nerve cells. It is the hub of operations, from movement, processing information, and regulating hormones to activating the stress response system through pain receptors and eliciting an appropriate action.
How Does Exercise Help Your Brain?
The benefits of exercise specific to the brain include:
- Oxygen flow to the brain increases as your heart rate spikes and works harder.
- Feel-good hormones are released and circulated, specifically in the hippocampus, which is related to improved memory and decreased symptoms of depression.
- Neural network growth increases, helping strengthen the connection/signals between the left and right sides of the brain. This effect leads to improved memory, coordination, balance, and neuroplasticity.
Exercise for Improved Focus and Mental Acuity
Exercising or engaging in any rigorous physical activity helps the heart pump blood into the different parts of the body. The increased blood flow delivers extra nutrients and oxygen to all the body organs, including the brain.
Oxygen boosts memory and facilitates better response times in the neural networks of the brain, ultimately allowing the brain to respond better to various stimuli.
Besides, exercise involves moving your body and connecting your mind to the task at hand (present-mindedness), both of which play a role in strengthening the mind’s ability to focus.
Contrary to popular beliefs, multitasking is:
- Not possible without compromising the quality of work
- Bad for your brain
The ability to do one thing at a time well with full focus is a much better approach to tackling your to-do list without making you feel overwhelmed or overburdened.
Again, you can only do one thing well at a time, and with the added benefit of FOCUS from exercise, you are likely to feel more content, at peace, and accomplished, too.
Exercise for Positive and Improved Thinking
The human brain has over 60,000 thoughts per day. For each negative thought, such as “I’m not good enough,” you need to have three positive thoughts to neutralize the negative.
Exercise can help with that, as it promotes a feeling of productivity and accomplishment by pushing you past the limits of what you thought you were capable of.
Thus, working out will not only enhance your physical stamina and body posture, but it will also help build your self-confidence and self-worth.
Exercise is also known to trigger the release of certain feel-good hormones that can pull you out of a lull and make you feel energized or upbeat.
Having a positive outlook enables you to try new things, combat stress, confidently face challenges, and grow in both your professional and personal lives.
A Great Mindful Exercise
For every negative thought or statement about yourself, take some time to journal and affirm three to four positive thoughts and statements to help counter the negative, and rewire your mind toward a more positive outlook.
Power Yoga Poses for Improved Body Confidence
Yoga is a great mind-body exercise that combines breathing, body movement, and mental focus. It is a meditative exercise that offers many benefits to your physical, mental, and overall health.
Yoga can also help you love and accept the body that you’re in. Here are some easy yoga poses you can try for body positivity.
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
- Stand up straight with your feet firmly rooted into the earth hip-distance apart and your arms anchored down by your side.
- Lift your sternum toward the sky with a slight tuck of the chin.
- With your eyes closed, find the center of your breath and take five deep breathes to center your mind, ground your energies, and connect with your inner self.
2. Goddess Pose
- Stand with your feet placed wider than hip-distance such that your knees fall in line with your ankles.
- Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly.
- Take five deep breaths to ground, connect, and expand your mind.
3. X Pose
- With your feet wider than hip-distance, extend your arms out to either side, forming an “X” with your body.
- Hold this position for five breaths, and feel your energy expand beyond your fingers to connect with the greater web of life. Feel your heart open, and your breathing move more easily.
Cross Body Coordination: Crossing the Midline and Neuroplasticity
The brain is divided into two hemispheres: the left side and the right side. The left side of the brain is commonly referred to as the analytical, logical thought side, and the right side of the brain is commonly referred to as the creative, artistic side.
Most people have a predominant side of the brain, which usually reflects their interests and skills.
People whose right side is dominant typically have an artistic bent of mind, whereas those who are left-side dominant are more adept at analytical thinking and numbers.
There used to be a belief that once a person passes the age of 35, he/she is no longer capable of growing new neurons or learning a new skill. Thank goodness that has been dispelled!
There is now evidence that our brains have neuroplasticity, (1) or the ability to grow new neurons and learn new skills, which is only strengthened by the performance of cross body coordinative exercises or movements.
Exercises that cross the midline, in particular, are known to help improve your memory function and also forge new neural pathways. Such exercises include:
- Sunbird reaches to curling inward head to knee
- Balancing on one leg while taking the alternate arm to the outside of the other leg
- High-knee pulldowns
- Sit-ups where you tap the opposite leg
- Tabletop “dead bug”
The best types of exercise for brain health include:
- Crossbody functional training
Exercise is highly beneficial, not just for your body but also for your mind. Working out regularly, will help you stay in the best of physical shape and will also improve and expand your brain activity.
Physical activity exerts a positive influence on your mental function by increasing the supply of oxygenated blood to the brain and triggering the release of certain brain chemicals, including endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
These hormones are known to relieve stress, aid the production of new brain cells, reduce pain perception, and bring about feelings of positivity and general well-being.
You can incorporate the exercises mentioned above in your daily routine for improved mental acuity and sharper memory!