I firmly believe that mental and physical fitness go hand in hand. As a personal trainer – there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the change in the people I work with. Not only do they get fitter and loose weight but also the changes that take place mentally are phenomenal- they are much happier within themselves and have a newfound energy for life. For me personally – it’s priceless!!

It’s a well-known fact that physical exercise can have enormous positive effects not only on your body but also your brain. Your brain is no different to the rest of the muscles in your body – you either use it or you loose it – it’s as simple as that.

Numerous studies have found that you can get an additional brain boost by donning your gym shoes and hitting the gym. The benefits of physical exercise have positive effects on the brain function on multiple fronts, ranging from the molecular to behavioural level.

The brain regulates the body’s key systems, including the cardiovascular, immune and endocrine systems. We now understand better than ever before that there is a continual feedback loop between the brain and the body’s organs.

Most of us are aware of what happens to our bodies when we exercise. We build more muscle – build more stamina and daily activities – like climbing the stairs – become much easier. According to recent studies – exercising – even briefly for 20 minutes a day facilitates information processing and memory functions as well as stimulates various brain chemicals that leave you feeling happier and much more relaxed.

So what actually happens to your brain when you start exercising? Your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, your brain kicks into fight or flight mode. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons – and acts as a reset switch. At the same time – ENDORPHINS – another chemical to fight stress, is released in your brain. These endorphins minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and give you that overall euphoric feeling that you get after a good workout. SO BDNF and endorphins are the reasons after a good workout we often feel at ease – we think clearer and we feel good.

So improving your physical state will certainly improve your brain function and vice versa.

The benefits of exercise are numerous. Regular exercise –

• Improves your mood and helps prevent disorders such as depression.
• Reduces Stress
• Combats Chronic Diseases – such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis
• Lowers Blood Pressure
• Improves Muscle Tone and Strength
• Strengthens and Builds Bones
• Reduces Body Fat
• Helps you manage your weight
• Boosts your energy levels
• Promotes better sleep
• Boosts your self-esteem
• Helps improve the quality of your life

Make exercise an enjoyable part of your daily life. Exercise doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym or force yourself into monotonous or painful activities. Adding just a little physical activity in your daily routine can have a profound effect on your mental and emotional wellbeing. No matter your age or fitness level, you can use enjoyable physical activities to improve your emotional health and change your life for the better.

So for those of you that are not regular exercisers – I encourage you to grab a pair of running shoes and set some time aside for yourself to go for a walk, go for a swim or join an exercise group. Don’t wait until the weather clears up, your hair is right, you find the right clothes to wear, or the kids leave home. DO IT NOW!! Make a commitment to yourself to take control of your health and wellbeing. Your body AND your mind will thank you for it.

Imagine how your life can change – set your vision, your goals, find your strengths and make it happen!!

Helen ^

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