I've repeatedly reported how exercising can enhance physical heath. Today I'd like to present research that indicates that exercise can provide benefits for a different form of health mental health.
I recently received a copy of an article taken from the December 2000 Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Star News. The article details research conducted by Dr. William Morgan, director of the Sport Psychology Laboratory and a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
During his research, Dr. Morgan found that even small amounts of exercise can lower levels of depression and anxiety, and that low- or moderate-intensity activity seems as good as high-intensity exercise when it comes to enhancing mental and emotional health.
In addition, other evidence suggests that exercise, which increases blood flow to the brain, helps us maintain our cognitive thought abilities. This extra blood flow causes more neuron connections to take place, and those connections help us use our brains better. "Many studies have reported that physically active elderly people perform better than their sedentary counterparts on cognitive tasks such as reasoning, vocabulary, memory, and reaction time. The studies also suggest that to benefit from the long-term mental clarity that exercise can provide, a person needs to engage in physical activity on a long-term basis," the author of the article, Ann Marie Donnelly, wrote.
It also has been shown that leisure activity, even when it does not involve aerobic activity, can be beneficial in improving our moods and decreasing our levels of anxiety. Taking a break from our daily responsibilities can help distract us from the things that often cause anxiety. This "time off" allows our brains to rest much like the rest we take between sets when we exercise and tends to keep anxiety from building, allowing us to return to tasks with new vigor and energy.
When it comes to mental health, Dr. Morgan said, it appears that it's not the length or intensity of our workouts that creates the cognitive benefits, but the consistency of our physical activity.
So if you find yourself getting frustrated because life is getting in the way of your planned exercise routine, don't be too hard on yourself. Remember even a modest level of exercise is still beneficial.
Go for a walk or spend some time doing something fun. Reaping the benefits of exercise doesn't necessarily take a lot of effort. Even a little bit of activity can make a big difference, and I think you will find yourself enjoying life a lot more.