The benefits of an active lifestyle are well known: a healthy lifestyle, equals a healthy heart, building a strong and fit body. It doesn’t take a doctor to know that exercise is good for you… but have you ever wondered what actually happens to your mind and body with exercise?
Here’s what goes on with some of your key body parts when you get active…
Muscle is the largest type of tissue in your body, and its responses during exercise are based on the duration, form and intensity of the workout.
As you work out, your muscles begin to form tiny tears, which help your muscles grow stronger as they heal post-workout. These tears in the tissue allow muscle cell organelles to be disrupted, activating cells external to your muscles, who enter in order to repair muscle damage. The cells replicate and eventually become part of the muscle fiber. This later helps form new muscle protein strands, which allows your muscles to grow in strength for future workouts.
So, the more you work out, the stronger you’ll be, and the more intense a workout you’ll be able to handle!
During your workout, your heart rate increases, allowing your blood’s oxygen to circulate quicker. Once you begin exercising, the skeletal muscles contract, squeezing the nearby veins, forcing blood towards your heart. Some refer to this as a ‘second heart,’ in that the skeletal muscles continue to contract and relax throughout your workout, allowing extra blood to pump to your heart.
As you become fitter, your resting heart rate lowers, and the heart becomes more efficient at circulating oxygen throughout the blood. This allows you to endure more intense workouts.
Exercise is incredibly good for your brain, due to increased blood flow, and the release of certain neurotrophic factors. Here are some of the benefits that your brain can enjoy with physical activity:
A Reduction in Stress
The brain is incredibly intuitive and insightful. With your workout, you release a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which helps protect the brain from stress. This element is both protective and reparative, helping memory neurons reset. This is why you often feel at ease, and clear-headed after exercise. The endorphins you release with a workout also help you fight stress.
Exercise also just makes your ability to deal with stress better. So getting active means you’re more likely to feel more balanced in your life overall.
Looking for more ways to de-stress while remaining active? Why not give yoga a try?
A Memory Boost
The hippocampus is the area of your brain that responds strongly to aerobic exercise. This area is the brain’s core learning and memory system, meaning that cardio will help boost your memory. It also has been shown to improve memory formation.
Preventing Cognitive Decline
Though exercise cannot ‘cure’ diseases such as Alzheimer’s, exercise does help the brain protect itself from cognitive decline after the age of 45. Studies have shown that those who are at risk for Alzheimer’s, who perform moderate-intensity exercise are more likely to have healthy patterns of glucose metabolism to the brain. So while exercise isn’t a cure-all, it has long term benefits that could end up being incredibly beneficial to brain health.
Your body is an incredible thing! These are just a few of the things that go on internally when you choose to get active! Just remember to stay hydrated, especially during this summer heat!