It’s clear to see the benefits that exercise has on the body, but do you know how it has been shown to affect the brain? Exercise, especially cardio, wakes up the body and brain by increasing the flow of oxygen to the cells and tissues and increasing brain activity (through neurotransmitters). This improves one’s mood, sleep, and energy levels.
The Functions of Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers to the brain, which dictate every single movement, thought, and emotion that we may have. There are three that are directly impacted by exercise: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Firstly, dopamine aids in movement, pleasure, and motivation. Next, norepinephrine, as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter, aids in reflex time, attention to detail, arousal, and alertness. Lastly, serotonin aids in mood regulation, behavior regulation, sex drive, appetite and digestion and sleep.
How Does This Apply?
To put it into perspective, regular physical activity increases blood flow to your brain and muscles, which then increases neural activity, making the body run more efficiently while decreasing levels of physical stress (stress hormones, such as cortisol). This helps to decrease anxiety and increase sleep quality and duration. With lowered stress levels and better sleep, it can help improve mood and motivation. However, when we have a deficiency in dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, it can cause us to have issues with fatigue, lethargy, depression, and sleep.
So if you feel like you have been in a little bit of a rut lately, why not try to add in 30 minutes of light-moderate physical exercise everyday? Your mind might just need a little pick me up!