Much has been said about the physical benefits of aerobic exercise. It’s true that a regular schedule of aerobic exercise can reduce migraines, help lose weight, reduce heart attack and stroke, lower blood pressure and improve all measures of stamina and physical health…maybe even add years to our lives, but that’s not the whole story. Regular aerobic exercise is as important to our sense of well-being and mental health as it is to our physical health. As you’ll see in this article, even if aerobic exercise did nothing to increase our lifespan, the increase in our quality of life is well worth the effort.
Stress Benefits Of Aerobic Exercise: If you’ve ever sat in the front at a red light and watched the faces driving past, you know most people are living a stressed out, unhappy experience of life. Obviously, exercise will do nothing for our life circumstances, but it may change how we view those circumstances. Aerobic exercise helps keep our brain chemicals in balance. One group of chemicals that are produced in abundance through aerobic exercise, are endorphins. These brain chemicals tend to relax us and give us an ability to cope with stressful situations in a far more relaxed manner. They won’t keep your boss from yelling at you, but they could help keep you from yelling back, because it just doesn’t get to you like it used to. We find ourselves worrying less, sleeping better and being more relaxed all day, just because we added aerobics to our routine.
Mental Processing Benefits Of Aerobic Exercise: Not only will we be more relaxed about our lives, but we’ll perform our life activities better, too. Aerobic exercise improves blood flow to all areas of the body. For physical activities, sensitivity and stamina are improved. The same blood flow improvement generates noticeable increases in mental acuity, cognitive ability and stamina. With better blood flow, come all the nutrients that keep our brains functioning. Mental tasks are done more rapidly with fewer errors for longer periods of time. It’s likely that people who engage in regular aerobic exercise experience increases in mental capacity of 10-30%, as closely as that can be measured. If you’re smart as a whip, how much smarter could you be? Unfortunately, if you’re dumb as dirt, you’ll only improve to say, potting soil.
Mental Health Benefits Of Aerobic Exercise: Just as impressive as mental processing are the effects of aerobic exercise on mental health. Many suffer from mild to moderate forms of anxiety and depression. In fact, the drug industry is making billions on these moderate cases, where the problem is too severe to ignore, but not severe enough for major mind-altering drugs or psychiatric hospital care. Enter aerobic exercise! Under “stress” above, we discussed how aerobics normalizes brain chemicals. These are exactly the chemicals the new mild depression and anxiety medications are designed to work on. Many have eliminated the need for medicine by naturally inducing their bodies to produce the chemicals through exercise. Of course, see your doctor before making any changes in your medications, but, just as with stress, mild to moderate anxiety, migraines and depression have been managed with aerobics.
Well-Being Benefits Of Aerobic Exercise: Obviously, if stress, mental processing and mental health can be improved, our sense of well-being is improved, but it’s actually more powerful than that. As these areas improve, our entire sense of self is changed. We begin to have much higher self-esteem and confidence, due to the increased abilities and the fact that things bother and distract us less. I know I said that aerobic exercise won’t keep your boss from yelling at you, but it might. With a better attitude, fewer mistakes and feeling more relaxed and confident, we may avoid the work and interpersonal problems that end in our bosses yelling. Who knows, maybe someone will be sitting at a stop light one day and witness one of the rarest of creatures going past…a smiling face…you…all because you started an aerobic exercise routine.