You already know that exercise is great for physical health. It builds muscle, makes you stronger and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Working out is also good for your brain, not just emotionally, but in terms of learning, memory, productivity and stress. Here’s what goes on inside your brain when you start a workout.
EXERCISE HELPS YOU LEARN BETTER
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals in your brain called growth factors. These just keep your brain healthy by causing brain cells and blood vessels to form and thrive. Your brain is dependent on things like sugar to function well, and that gets transported to your brain through your blood. The easier blood flows to your brain, the more likely you are to be able to take in and retain information throughout different parts of your brain.
IT MAKES YOU LESS SENSITIVE TO STRESS
If you have ever tried to ease your stress levels by going for a walk or hitting the gym, you’ve probably noticed that getting your heart pumping releases tension both mentally and physically. This is a real thing, and there’s science to back it up, too. Working out tells your brain to release chemicals called endorphins (“happy hormones”), which can help improve your mood and give you a short-lived natural high. It’s the same idea behind why eating dark chocolate when you’re sad can make you feel better. Endorphins are natural painkillers, which also sort of explains why they’re good for fighting off feelings of anxiety.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IMPROVES PRODUCTIVITY
Your brain needs energy, or it won’t work. As mentioned above, exercise increases blood flow to your brain. This brings in more glucose (sugar) and oxygen. The more glucose and oxygen your brain cells have, the better they work. So when you work out, your brain cells are benefiting just as much as other parts of your body. The other side to this has to do with what you typically feed your brain before and after you exercise. That also increases brain power. Both of these things together make you much more likely to move right on to the next thing after you’ve finished your workout, boosting your productivity for the rest of the morning or even for the rest of the day.
Knowing all this, you can time your workouts depending on what’s going on in your personal or professional life. If you’re going to have to make some big decisions at work, or you have to take a test in school, working out beforehand might help you perform better. If you know you’re going to have a stressful day, you might choose to work out afterward to relieve some of that tension. Working out is great for you physically, but it’s also great for boosting brain power. Think how much better you’ll feel once you’ve gotten your workout in today.