How Regular Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Well-Being

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Did you know that regular exercise can make your brain grow?

Well, it can – sort of.

Exercise can stimulate neurogenesis, or the growth and development of nervous tissue, particularly in middle-aged and older-aged individuals. This has been shown to occur in the hippocampus area of the brain, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Not only does regular exercise help maintain and grow neural connections, but it also is proven to reduce those depressive, down-in-the-dumps types of feelings.

Every time you exercise, (even if it’s just going for a simple walk or doing some work in the garden), endorphins are released.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin) that make you feel good, feel more positive and can provide a much-needed distraction from the stressors of daily life. Additionally, endorphins also help memory, improve your sleep quality and sharpen your mental acuity so you can function at the tip-top of your mental capacity all while you are ‘growing’ your brain and improving your physical well-being. Doesn’t sound like that bad of a deal, does it?

Although higher-energy exercises such as road biking and running can produce greater benefits than lower impact routines like gardening (depending on the state of your garden, that is), it doesn’t need to be high intensity.

If you’re just starting to exercise, start small and then work your way into a regular routine that is comfortable and realistic for you. Find something you love to do – something that won’t be a chore – and make it a regular part of your life. Do it with family and loved ones at a time of day that is easiest for you. And for Pete’s sake, wear some comfortable clothes.

So, the next time you scoff at even the thought of a workout, remember that it doesn’t have to be the traditional high-intensity type of training often associated with fitness. It can be simple and enjoyable, something you do to connect with those you love. Besides, you will actually be ‘growing’ your brain in the process!

To learn more about making exercise a part of your daily routine, schedule an appointment with Sally Turnipseed at Ochsner Health Center – Tchopitoulas here.

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