We’ve all been there before: a tough day at work, with the kids or in school. We’re exhausted, both mentally and physically, but we still manage to push ourselves and get to the gym and do exercise. Why do we do it? Because we know how much better we’ll feel after a workout be it indoor cycling class, an hour of HIIT or a challenging weight workout. We leave feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and invigorated—truly transformed.
There’s a relationship between exercise and the brain, but what is it? What creates such a dramatic change in the mood, mental health and even memory following a workout?
There are two types of neurotransmitters in particular—endorphins and serotonin—are responsible for why you feel so good when you exercise. This is your brain on exercise:
Endorphins are the body’s internal painkiller. So instead of feeling pain, endorphins leave you feeling pleasure.
Serotonin is a mood-boosting neurotransmitter and is known as the “happy chemical” because it too makes us feel good. But unlike endorphins, which initially block pain to produce pleasure, serotonin promotes pleasure itself.
1. Emotional Benefits of Exercise
Exercise can help to fight depression.
Serotonin transmits messages between nerve cells, is also known as “the happy chemical.”
“The current theory is that depression reflects deficits in serotonin,” and workout naturally increases the amount of serotonin in the brain.
In fact, some health professionals now recommend workout to individuals with subclinical, mild and moderate levels of depression.
Exercise produces “feel-better” substances.
“Endorphins create the sense of euphoria that follows exercise that felt hard, or even exhausting,”
The brain also produces lesser-known substances called endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters that play a role in brain function. “These also increase with exercise, but the workout does not need to be as demanding,”. He adds that early-stage research shows that even moderate exercise, such as a walk or a jog, can trigger the “feel-better” effect.
2. Cognitive Benefits of Exercise
Exercise stimulates the creation of brain cells.
“Physical Activity regularly and management of cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes, obesity, smoking and hypertension) reduce the risk of cognitive decline and may reduce the risk of dementia.”
New brain cells are created mostly in the hippocampus, an area vital for cognitive function (specifically memory) that is attacked by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. That new neuron creation is regulated by proteins — one of which, BDNF, is stimulated most strongly by exercise.
“Exercise is the only treatment that has been found to have significant positive effects in people with mild cognitive impairment and early-stage dementia without any negative side effects,”
So keep working out. Your brain will thank you.
If you are not still joined any gym yet you can check out our blog- Things you must consider before buying any gym membership.