If you’ve ever sat in front of your computer unable to focus, you’re not alone. But before you reach for a coffee or chocolate bar to get a quick caffeine fix, you may want to consider an alternative option to stimulate your mind: exercise.
Exercise is like a natural energy drink for the brain. While many exercise for the physical benefits gained from an active body, working out also comes with many more unforeseen mental benefits.
Need proof to get off the couch or leave the office and exercise? Here are a few positive effects that may motivate you to get moving.
Get Hyped on Endorphins
Endorphins are chemicals in your brain that are released when you exercise that can produce a unique feeling of euphoria. You may be familiar with the more common term for that sensation: “runner’s high.” Not only do endorphins tap into natural good feelings from within, but they also function as pain signal inhibitors, meaning they’ll help counter any stiffness or soreness you get from exercise. And don’t be surprised if you feel a little more cheerful after a workout —exercise is shown to impact your mood and work performance, too. Everyone will have different factors that trigger endorphin rushes, but exercise that includes heavy weight training and sprinting works best.
Bonus round: get outside and take a jog, cycle, or go for a paddle. Recent research has shown that exposure to the great outdoors positively impacts our mental health. Not only that, but it may improve cognitive ability — escaping the concrete jungle has been proven to help people better focus their attention. The reduced stress from being out in nature combined with the endorphins from your cardio workout will mean you’re extra prepared to face your next challenge.
Your body is going to be tired after the jolt of adrenalin and flood of endorphins wears off. Regular physical activity has been shown to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. But remember: the natural chemical cocktail induced by exercise is a potent one, and if you exercise too close to bedtime you may actually struggle rather than succeed in falling asleep.
Studies done at Northwestern University show that consistent exercise can even help those with diagnosed insomnia. While the turnaround in seeking a good night’s sleep is less rapid than with those who experience regular nightly patterns, research proved that consistent exercise can gradually untangle even the most stubborn of sleep deprivations.
We’re all able to focus and function better on a full night’s sleep!
Invest in Your Mental Health
While exercise provides an immediate flush of endorphins and improved sleep patterns, there are also more long-term benefits.
Just as we move parts of our body to keep them fresh, the neurotransmitters in our brain also need to be kept buzzing. A way to do this is through exercise. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine assigned female study participants to an aerobics group in order to gauge the impact exercise had on their cognition. After six months the study found that the women who had done aerobics had an expanded hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for managing memories and learning. With that memory center better in check, the results suggested exercise could put the brakes on the progression of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other long-term memory loss.
From a physical standpoint, exercise can boost blood and oxygen circulation to your brain, and reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. These are all conditions that can cause undue stress later in life, so consider exercise a preventative measure!
In the end, taking time out of your day to exercise will help make you more productive and healthy in the long-run. So get moving and reap the benefits of feeling and focusing better than ever before.