When you socialize with others, you are staying active. And just as socializing and interacting with other people promotes a healthy mind, so does physical activity.
Here is what happens.
When you become physically active, whether involved in intense exercise or just a walk around the park, your brain has to work harder than if you are just sitting in a chair doing nothing.
This is because your mind has to control not only what you are viewing or hearing, but also has to make sure that your physical movements are supportive and correct.
So your mind benefits by physical activity because it is challenged to a greater degree than in people who are sedentary.
One study conducted at the University of Adelaide in Australia shows that just 30 minutes of vigorous exercise actually makes your brain increase in plasticity.
This means your brain actually stretches and grows. That research also noted improvements in motor skill coordination and memory due to just one half-hour of exercise. And to be honest, the benefits of physical fitness for mental health have been known for decades.
When you get moving, you promote the circulation of oxygen throughout your body. This includes pumping blood and oxygen to your brain.
This physical movement is rewarded by the release of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine, antidepressants and “feel good” chemicals.
Exercise is good for your body and your brain, so you are stimulated to feel good when you do so. Your brain hopes that this will make you want to stay active and exercise in the future, so that you can experience those pleasant feelings once again.
The great news is you don’t have to run a marathon or start weightlifting to improve your mental health and ability through exercise.
Get up out of your chair right now and take a walk around your neighborhood. There are even simple bodyweight exercises you can perform in the comfort and safety of your own home that strengthen your body and your brain.
“The key is to simply stay active and vertical, to keep blood and oxygen pumping throughout your body, and feeding the natural reward response your mind gives you when you use physical activity and exercise to slow down the process of cognitive decline.”