Exercise Your Body, Help Your Mind

Lately, I’ve been on a little bit of a health kick–by health kick, I mean going on 20 minute jogs now and again and trying to eat healthy, but I digress–and I’ve been feeling a lot better ever since it started. I didn’t really become aware of how great I feel until the “Stress and Health” unit of my psych course came around, and I learned just how beneficial working out really is, aside from trying to fit into those pesky limits of “beauty” (I don’t know about you, but I know my body will never look like most of those girls’, regardless of how much I work out).

Here are a few things I learned about aerobic exercise:

Note: “Also called aerobic exercises. ( used with a plural verb) any of various sustained exercises, as jogging, rowing, swimming, or cycling, that stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs, thereby improving the body’s utilization of oxygen.” (Source)

  • Reduces risk of heart disease by 30%, stroke by 400%, and breast cancer by 200% 
  • Increases life quality, well-being, self-esteem, and your immune system
  • Nerve growth factors are stimulated and thrive (these basically rescue your neurons from imminent death and helps them grow and function properly = proper function of the nerves in your body, including your brain)
  • Increases brain function–it is shown that people who do aerobic exercise receive better grades 
  • Shrinkage of brain may be stopped and/or reversed (this is like… a really big deal. As you get older/use your brain less, brain tissue will be lost and your brain will shrink. This contributes to losing your memory and becoming unable to do certain rather basic tasks in your old age. Basically, there are studies which show that aerobic exercise can work against this)
  • Helps A LOT to reduce stress as they affect neurotransmitters. This is because exercise reduces epinephrine, and cortisol (stress hormones) and produce norepinephrine (healthy levels can improve memory, concentration, attention, and confidence), serotonin, dopamine (pleasure molecule), endorphins (natural opiates), and glutamate (leads to higher cognitive functioning).
  • Can help with psychological illnesses, such as depression and anxiety

Citation: Myers, David G. Psychology, Tenth Edition. New York: Worth Publishers, 2013.

I know it seems scary to start exercising if you don’t do so already, but there are tons of little steps that you can take to help you reach your goals. A little is better than none, and your ability and confidence will build up pretty quickly if you stick to it! I’m definitely no exercise expert, and won’t pretend to be, but here are some things that I’ve found helpful:

  1. Have realistic expectations. For example, if you’ve never run before, or haven’t for a long time, don’t expect to run for thirty minutes straight–it may not seem like a long time, but it is for someone who isn’t used to it. It takes a while to build up stamina and ability, so don’t get discouraged if you have to take it slow and take a lot of breaks.
  2. Make use of technology! This one has been seriously helpful for me, as someone who doesn’t know much about working out (like… at all). Upon recommendation, I downloaded RunKeeper which is an awesome app for android and iPhone users. It tracks your progress and helps you to set realistic goals and plans to achieve them. There are tons of other workout apps which seem awesome as well, and can be hugely beneficial to you.
  3. “Werk Out, Twerk Out” [sorry, I have a thing for rhymes]. MAKE A WORKOUT PLAYLIST. There are actual reasons why this can help increase the success in your exercise AND it helps you to have more fun.
  4. Involve a Friend. Whether you’re actually going to exercise with a friend, or just tell a friend about your workout plan, their involvement will help keep you motivated and on track. If it’s a more experienced friend, you may even learn something, which will make you feel more comfortable.
  5. Learn the Right Way. This is definitely the most important piece of advice on this list. Make sure you know that you’re doing your workout the right way so that you aren’t hurting yourself. You can make use of YouTube, Pinterest, a knowledgeable friend, or a personal trainer to do so, but make sure you know what you’re doing or you can be seriously injured. This includes having proper equipment and clothing!!

If you don’t trust a beginner like me (I don’t blame you), here are some other sources with tips: 1, 2, 3 (2 give a lot of good advice and number 3 walks you through a lot of exercises step-by-step and gives examples of workouts for every level)

I never used to care at all about exercising. I’m lazy, I’m anxious about trying new things, and I’m just not an athletic person. I told myself that I was protesting against the typical standards of attractiveness and that it shouldn’t matter whether or not I work out, but I realized that this is the wrong way of thinking. A healthy body does more than just give you a nice looking body–it can improve your health in general, and that’s pretty rad.

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