It’s common to think of your mind and your body as separate entities, but they’re inextricably linked. If you’ve ever suffered the pounding pulse and sweaty palms of stage fright or felt unable to concentrate with a headache, you know how your mind and body mesh. Too much or too little exercise throws your mind-body balance out of alignment. Focusing on improving that connection between your brain and your body strengthens both. A fit mind and a fit body means total health.
Exercise Boosts Your Brain Power:
Your brain consumes about ten percent of your body’s total energy use. Like other tissues, brain cells get their energy from the simple sugar glucose. The blood carries glucose to hungry cells, giving them the fuel they need. Without sufficient glucose, your brain starts to act unpredictably. If you’ve ever felt a little lightheaded or shaky after skipping a meal, low blood sugar is the reason.
During exercise, your heart rate increases, pumping blood more rapidly throughout your body. That extra blood bathes your brain with all the glucose it needs to keep its cells energized. The blood also carries oxygen, another component vital to proper brain function. An active body houses a healthy brain, while a sedentary body leads to mental sluggishness as well.
Recent advances in imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, or FMRI, let researchers take snapshots of the brain in action. Scientists can now study how increased blood flow matches increased brain activity. The results are conclusive: a busy body promotes a busy brain.
Mind Versus Brain:
Your mind and your brain aren’t quite synonymous, although the two overlap so much that you might use the terms interchangeably. The brain is the home of the mind, but your mind encompasses much more than the couple of pounds of tissue between your ears. The brain does a lot of work that isn’t related to conscious thought. It processes the world around you, keeps your heart beating, regulates your breathing and does hundreds of other tasks without your conscious awareness. Meanwhile, the hopes, aspirations, fears and deep thoughts you think of as your mind come from just a few areas of your brain.
Researchers are just beginning to explore how brain health affects mental health. They know that exercise improves cognition, but they’re also finding out how it affects other aspects of the mind such as emotions and moods. Exercise appears to lighten depression and foster optimism, but scientists aren’t really sure why. Imaging can show how physical fitness affects the brain, but quantifying how it affects the mind is more of a challenge.
How A Fit Mind Promotes A Fit Body:
While it might not be possible yet to show why the body’s health influences the mind, decades of empirical evidence shows that the mind’s health influences the body. Athletes regularly study film, analyze opponents and visualize upcoming matches to get an edge on the competition. Mindfulness meditation, the art of focusing your consciousness on the present, is a common technique to relieve anxiety. Conversely, distracting yourself from a dull task makes doing it less onerous.
Try reading a novel during your next monotonous treadmill session. “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Crime and Punishment” will take your mind far away from the gym, giving you a mental workout as you increase your physical fitness. If you prefer a faster workout that doesn’t permit reading, read before you hit the treadmill. You’ll entertain yourself with thoughts of the novel you’d been reading instead of becoming bored with your workout.
What Workouts You Do To Keep Your Mind And Body Healthy?
What kind of writing forges a deeper mind-body connection for you? Do you prefer uplifting stories that motivate you, mysteries that keep you guessing or science fiction that makes you ponder your place in the universe? Share your favorite workouts for mind and body; you may get some great recommendations in return.
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