Moving your mental health in 2021
It’s no secret that movement is key in keeping our brains and bodies happy and healthy – even when heading outside is the last thing on our minds in the January cold.
Now, arguably more than ever, the virtues of walking, cycling and running are being extolled more and more. But in case you need more convincing, we’ve put together a list of benefits: perfect to consult when the lure of bed stops you reaching for your trainers.
Not everyone was born to run – and that’s OK! We all go at our own pace, and walking certainly shares a number of benefits with its faster counterpart.
Walking alone or in a group can be used as a treatment for depression – and there is some evidence that walking can also prevent it – helping you stay social and active when it’s needed most.
It can also lower anxiety, complementing CBT and providing a much-needed break from our bustling lives, decreasing psychological stress and improving psychological well-being. Which isn’t bad for a quick 20-minute stroll around the block.
Picking up the pace a little, running can also control stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps moderate the brain’s response to stress.
Taking your run outside on a sunny day helps your body produce vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, a nutrient that can lessen your likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms.
And while running doesn’t “cure” Alzheimer’s, it may help boost the brain’s ability to minimize and slow the cognitive decline that begins after age 45. Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevents degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.
Cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance – giving a well-needed boost. A tough run increases levels of a brain-derived protein in the body believed to help with decision-making, higher thinking and learning.
And if you’re struggling for sleep, a moderate run can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep.
Finally, if you’ve hit a mental brick wall, going for a quick run can contribute to greater creativity. A heart-pumping run can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards. Rather than staring at the blank page waiting for an exceptional idea to fall from the sky, get those legs moving and refresh your body and brain at the same time.
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