How Physical Health Benefits Your Mind

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Benefits of Exercise: Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Some other studies have linked weight training to improved cognition. Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication, for example, a recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Exercise is also a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins.  Exercise is truly our best defense against everything from depression to ADD to addiction to menopause to Alzheimer's. Some studies even suggest regular exercise along with talk therapy works as well as medication to reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression and can even possibly eliminate those issues altogether.

 

Benefits of Yoga & Meditation: When people talk about yoga, they often reference the physiological benefits of the practice, such as increased flexibility and improved balance.  However, not enough is mentioned about the mental, psychological, and cognitive benefits of yoga and meditation.  There have been several studies done to assess the effectiveness of yoga and meditation for brain and mental health.  Here are some of the most prominent mental benefits for these practices: 1) concentration on the breath and body, which makes it a great way to reduce tension and stress; 2) proven helpful in reducing anxiety and depression; 3) proven effective at improving memory and concentration; and 4) reduces the effects of traumatic experiences.

 

Benefits of Nutrition: Food powers your life. It fuels all bodily processes that enable you to move, think and breathe. There is no aspect of your life that is not influenced by what you eat. Strength, agility, coordination, endurance, speed and level of performance are all powered by the foods you eat. What you eat determines how you tackle your daily physical activities, including housework, your job, caring for a family and exercise. Food supplies the source of power for your brain as well as your body, and has a direct relationship to mental and emotional health and stability. Learning and memory, illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease benefit from a healthy diet that includes a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating a healthy diet keeps you physically and mentally fit. When you look healthy, you feel good and you have self-confidence and fewer inhibitions; you are more outgoing and have a greater capacity for enjoying life. Eating a healthy, balanced diet prevents weight (fat) gain; lowers your risk for diet-related illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and depression; and gives you the energy to have a full and rewarding social life.

Benefits of Sleep: A normal sleeper cycles between two major categories of sleep.  During "quiet" sleep, a person progresses through four stages of increasingly deep sleep. Body temperature drops, muscles relax, and heart rate and breathing slow. The deepest stage of quiet sleep produces physiological changes that help boost immune system functioning.  The other sleep category, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is the period when people dream. Body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing increase to levels measured when people are awake. Studies report that REM sleep enhances learning and memory, and contributes to emotional health - in complex ways.  Sleep disruption, which affects levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation. Studies suggest that sleep problems may raise risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders. Treating a sleep disorder may also help alleviate symptoms of a co-occurring mental health problem. 

Benefits of Hydration: The brain is strongly influenced by its hydration status. Studies show that even mild dehydration can impair many aspects of brain function, such as mood and concentration. Fluid loss has also been shown to be detrimental to working memory and increases feelings of anxiety. Poor hydration can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, increased fatigue and make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally. Drinking plenty of water can increase satiety and boost your metabolic rate.