“Make sure you exercise! It’s good for you.”
“Stay active, you’ll feel better.”
“Don’t forget to exercise!”
We grow up being told multiple times that exercising is good for us. From calming the anxious mind to regulating mood swings and decreasing the probability of medical diseases, exercise may be the best thing we can do for our mental, physical, and emotional health.
What we often do not talk about is how inactivity is actually bad for us.
Did you know that inactivity actually decreases brain activity and increases our risk of cancer?
Yep, staying at home opting to watching Netflix instead of hitting the gym or engaging in a physical activity of some kind will lessen the capacity of our brain to function over time.
Multiple research studies have shown that there is a physical association between fitness levels and the hippocampus size of 9 and 10 year-old children. The hippocampus is the middle part of the brain that plays a key role in memory and your ability to retain information. A larger hippocampus is often associated with better cognitive and learning abilities. In the study, the children who were more physically fit were observed to have a larger hippocampus and performed better on a memory test than their less fit counterparts.
Researchers in a report in the Journal of the American Association concluded that elderly individuals who engaged in regular physical exercise for a 24-week period had an improvement of an astounding 1,800 percent on memory, language ability, attention, and other important cognitive functions compared to those who did not exercise.
After extensive research in 876 adults with an average age of 78, doctors at UCLA also concluded that those with active lifestyle factors such as recreational sports, cycling, and dancing actually have brains with larger “gray matter”, which in turn slows Alzheimer’s. Larger output of energy on a regular basis preserves gray matter and keeps our minds healthy.
Fitness is empowerment. Fitness helps us build discipline. Fitness is motivating. Remember your first pullup? Bodyweight clean and jerk/snatch? Or when you finally joined the prestigious muscle up club? Fitness gives us the opportunity to push ourselves beyond our limits and prove that we are stronger than we think. It empowers us to think beyond our limits and prove what we once thought was impossible. It builds great habits such as healthier food choices and it motivates us to keep our minds focused on goals, both physical and mental.
Over time, my relationship with fitness has evolved from a mere past time activity to a lifetime commitment to health. Each time I step foot in a gym and pick up a barbell, I’m taking a step towards a healthier lifestyle and a happier me. No matter how good or bad a workout went, the fact that I showed up and did it is the true accomplishment.
The single most important investment you will ever make is the one you will make to yourself.
Make that commitment and keep going, you owe it to yourself.
Pederson, T. (2015, October 06). Physically Fit Kids Have Bigger Hippocampus. Retrieved July 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/09/18/physically-fit-kids-have-bigger-hippocampus/18316.html
Press.rsna.org. (2018). RSNA press release: Active Lifestyle Boosts Brain Structure and Slows Alzheimer’s Disease. [online] Available at: http://press.rsna.org/timssnet/media/pressreleases/pr_target.cfm?ID=632 [Accessed 19 Jul. 2018].
Lautenschlager NT, Cox KL, Flicker L, et al. Effect of Physical Activity on Cognitive Function in Older Adults at Risk for Alzheimer DiseaseA Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2008;300(9):1027–1037. doi:10.1001/jama.300.9.1027