Give the Body What It Needs: Starting at the Brain

May 29, 2014

Think of someone who you care for: a child, a parent, a pet.  When that individual truly needs something, you help them get it.  It’s just what we do for the ones we care about.

The weight loss journey is about caring for our body, for ourselves. Giving the body what it truly needs.

This can sometimes get muffled in the “rules” of weight loss: the should and shouldn’ts; the have to’s and can’ts.

What if exercise and eating were simply about giving our body what it needs?

Over the next few weeks we will explore the exercise part of this together.

We will start with the top – How can physical activity give the brain what it needs?

  • Stress resistance: Exercise increases norepinephrine in the brain, which researcher believe plays a role in helping the brain deal with daily stressors. Exercise gives the brain more “practice” in coordinating information between different parts,  so in times of stress it is ready to communicate and manage the stressor.  Inactivity seems makes our brain less able to deal with stressors.
  • Happiness: The antidepressant effect of exercise is thought to be from the above point: the increase in the brain’s ability to deal with stress.  Exercise increases chemicals in the brain to create feelings of happiness and euphoria.  Exercise can even reduce the symptoms for those feeling depressed.  Great news: The Happy Brain does not come only when you reach a certain fitness level. Just doing a moderate level of physical activity for 30 minutes (possibly less) gets those chemicals going.
  • Confidence: Patients tell me often that the increase in self-confidence is a big reason weight loss is so important to them. The side effect: We are much more likely to take on other challenging lifestyle changes when we have more confidence. Get moving and start getting to that goal.
  • Maintaining memory with aging: Exercise cannot prevent Alzheimer’s but it can boost the chemicals in the part of the brain that’s responsible for memory.  Physical activity has become a part of a healthy aging prescription for the brain.
  • Calmness: When feeling anxious, we may look for an escape like playing a video game, watching TV or taking a bubble bath. Guess what? – yep – movement is much more effective because it helps the brain switch to relaxation mode and burn up the tension from feeling anxious.
  • Learning: Exercise increases levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning.  Exercise can also create new brain cells and improve the brain’s overall performance.
  • Freedom from addiction: Exercise releases dopamine, which is the brain chemical released with pleasure activities that can be addicting. Exercise has been used for people fighting addictions to help their brains receive this chemical in a healthier way.
  • Accomplishing more: Taking time for exercise can seem like a waste of time. However, when people exercise they are actually more productive and have more energy. So exercise is actually a worthwhile investment in your time, especially if you have a lot to do.
  • Creativity: Exercising outdoors can boost the brain’s creativity for about two hours after. This is not just for you artists out there: Creativity means we can problem solve better.  We can come up with creative solutions to challenges to weight loss or any other part of life.
  • Connect with others: The brain is hardwired to connect with other people. Inspiring others to exercise is a great way to connect and keep yourself inspired as well.
  • Sleep: The brain processes tons of information when we sleep. It is an important “sorting time” in our day so the brain can decide what to hold onto and what to let go of. People who exercise go to sleep faster and sleep deeper. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature.  When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it is time to sleep.

So… physical activity is part of taking care of the “central command” in our body.

Keep Moving, Be Well!


1 Comment

Filed under Exercise and Movement Science, Inspiration

One response to “Give the Body What It Needs: Starting at the Brain

  1. Pingback: Give the Body What It Needs: Exercise for the Heart | Keep Moving Weekly

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