We all know exercise is good for the body. But did you know it is just as beneficial for the mind? Below are 5 ways exercise can help improve your brain function.
Memory – When you are a newbie to exercise and start your first exercise program, you probably won’t be familiar with most of the exercises you have to do. It can seem very overwhelming at times to have to learn all these different moves your body isn’t used to doing. If you have a good coach or trainer, they will spend a LOT of time correcting your form to make sure you are doing each exercise just right. (I promise they aren’t doing this to be mean. It is for your own good and will help your muscles develop in the right way while preventing injury.) Repeating unfamiliar exercises over and over until they become habit is one of the best ways to improve your memory. After all, memorization (even in the form of exercise) is one of the quickest paths to better memory skills!
In my own experience… I remember when I first started working out on a regular basis using FitnessBlender’s free videos on YouTube. I quit probably half a dozen times before I actually stuck with them long enough to get familiar with the exercises. It was so hard to remember how to do each exercise with proper form (not to mention the fact that my muscles were screaming just 5 minutes into each workout). Looking back I can see that making myself do FitnessBlender workouts on a regular basis gave me an awesome foundation for what I now know about exercise techniques and benefits! So in the end I’m so glad I made myself work through the mental difficulty of their exercise videos.
Coordination – Compound movements, or exercises that involve multiple muscle groups at once, require a lot of coordination. Your brain has to focus to maintain good form and make your muscles work together to get each exercise done. That is a lot easier said than done. Take the clean and press for example. This movement requires picking up a dumbbell or barbell from the ground and lifting it efficiently overhead. To do this exercise properly, you have to use your hips, knees, and shoulders to propel the weight upwards and then come under it to catch it on your shoulders. All this has to be done with your back in proper alignment and without injuring your knees or neck. You then have to use a powerful jump to push the weight overhead (unless you are doing a strict press). Even something as simple as holding a weight over your head requires a lot more coordination than one might think. And the same goes for most other compound exercises. Better coordination is one of the first benefits you might notice as a result of regular exercise.
In my own experience… I am a very clumsy individual. I’m the type that gets lost in thought and runs into walls (literally). So needless to say, coordination is not something I’m naturally gifted at. Exercising on a regular basis and practicing complicated movements has really helped me learn to focus and move my body efficiently. Now that’s not to say I don’t still run into walls when I’m not paying attention, but I can execute perfect workout moves if I put my mind to it lol 😉
Tenacity – Getting through a tough workout on a day when you aren’t motivated is extremely difficult. It’s hard to push yourself through the last two sets when your muscles are shaking and you know quitting would be so much easier (just this once, you tell yourself). And getting up early to get in a workout because you know the rest of your day will be crazy is something normal people just don’t want to do. And who can blame them?! The thing is, just like pushing yourself through the pain of the last few reps of an exercise builds strength, making yourself do something you mentally don’t feel ready for builds an equal amount of mental strength. That’s really what fitness is all about. It’s about getting yourself through something painful to the other side, where the results pay off.
In my own experience… Actually the idea for this post came to me today during my workout, as I was extremely tempted to do 3 sets of squats instead of 5. I was tired and just ready to be done. I reasoned with myself that most other days I do the full 5 sets, so surely I deserved to call it quits sooner than usual today. But then of course I remembered the things I tell my clients and followers. To keep going when it’s hard, because that is what builds physical and mental strength. So of course I did the full 5 sets, plus 5 sets of deadlifts and some pilates work. It is the best feeling to come out of a workout with no regrets, and no question of if I could have done better.
Math – Math is incredibly good for the brain, and believe it or not numbers are a huge part of exercise. Whether it’s counting reps, minutes, or miles, you will have to do math at some point, and the more proficient you are at it, the better.
In my own experience… Nobody ever told me when I was in school that my greatest appreciation for math would come when I started weightlifting. I find myself regularly having to add and subtract in groups of 10, 15, 20, 35, 45, 50, and 95. And of course when you are in the middle of a workout the last thing you want to do is work figures on a piece of paper, so I had to learn to do it fast in my head. So parents, if you want your kids to get good at numbers, have them lift weights (I’m kind of halfway kidding so don’t hold me responsible for that statement) 😉
What did you think of today’s post? Has exercise improved your mental function? Leave a comment below!