How Physical Strength is Linked to Mental Strength
Exercise. One little word that conjures up strong connotations for most of us. Whether it’s feelings of excitement, determination or guilt, we can all agree on one thing—there’s something powerful about it.
We know exercise is good for our bodies. This message has been drilled into us from a young age by our parents, our teachers, our coaches and our physicians. But how much do we know about the effects of exercise on our minds?
The positive physical effects of exercise
When we exercise, we invest in our bodies. Every time we exercise, we build physical strength. The more we exercise, the stronger we become.
But the physical benefits don’t end here.
Skeletal muscle mass is critical for mobility, balance and strength. This muscle mass contributes to our stamina, helps us stay active and protects us from injury. However, loss of skeletal muscle mass is an increasing problem as people age. Exercise builds strength and slows the decrease of this mass. It’s an investment in our health and quality of life!
Weight-bearing and strength-training exercises increase bone density and help ward off osteoporosis. This includes walking, jogging, resistance training, lifting weights, push-ups, squats, etc.
Your mind and body are one
It’s difficult to talk about the physical benefits of exercise without also addressing the mental benefits. Why? Our minds and bodies are interconnected. Anything that affects the body also affects the mind.
That’s why the benefits of exercise are both physical and mental. A few benefits include:
- Improved memory
- Improved attention span
- Improved decision-making skills
- Clearer thinking
- Reduced feelings of anxiety and depression
- Weight loss
- Improved sleep
- Lower blood pressure
Have you ever wondered why, when you start working out, you experience an overall increase in your feelings of well-being? In fact, the harder you train, the better you feel. It might seem counterintuitive. Why don’t you just feel more exhausted and depleted?
This is because the dose-response relationship is hard at work: An increase in exercise correlates with a direct increase in mental well-being.
Also, when we exercise, our bodies release our “happy hormones”—endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals are responsible for the great feeling we get after we work out. When we get this “reward” for working out, we want to work out again to achieve that same great feeling. This is known as the action-reward-action cycle.
Another benefit? We experience a sense of satisfaction when we complete a workout. This fuels our “If I put my mind to it I can accomplish it” mentality. This mentality carries over into our daily tasks and into all areas of our lives. When we exercise and increase our physical strength, it helps us break mental barriers.
A study out of the University of Iowa shows that running improves follow-through in all aspects of life. If you can power through a run, you can power through anything!
In honor of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, educate your kids about the physical and mental benefits of leading an active lifestyle and model what that looks like. Make extra time in your schedule to join a sports team or fitness class, train for a race or shoot hoops with your kids. Adults, aim for 30 minutes of active time each day and encourage your kids to be active for at least an hour each day. Good habits start young and strong bodies make strong minds.
Looking for ways to help boost your child’s cognitive skills? Exercise is a great place to start! In addition, cognitive skills training with LearningRx can help your child learn easier for life! Contact us here for more information.