Being physically active has long been associated with numerous benefits for the body. But did you know that the benefits extend to the brain as well? Just as proper nutrition contributes to a healthy state of mind, playing sports and exercising on a regular basis, significantly benefits mental clarity in both direct and indirect ways.
Thinking skills and memory
Recent research led by Harvard Medical School suggests that participating in sports and being physically active changes the way our brains work by not only improving thinking skills, but by protecting memory as well. As soon as your heart rate is up and you begin to sweat, there is a notable size increase of the hippocampus, which is associated with learning abilities and verbal memory. While you can choose many different types of physical activity for these benefits, the important thing is to remain consistent.
Eliminating brain fog
Partaking in sports and aerobic exercise also improves mental clarity in a different way. We all know that dreaded feeling of ‘brain fog’, often associated with general confusion, a lack of motivation and even inspiration. Breaking a sweat significantly affects our cognitive functions by increasing blood flow to the brain, resulting in higher levels of both energy and oxygen. It also releases hormones such as adrenaline and dopamine that not only make you feel good and energized, but also enable you to concentrate and think clearly. What does this mean for your mental state? Better performance and a clear head. In other words, say goodbye to brain fog.
While physical activity directly impacts our mental health, it also affects us indirectly, but again in positive ways. When we exercise, we are naturally reducing both stress and anxiety, which can negatively impact our moods and mental state. Playing sports is a particularly good option as your mind will be focused on working with your team or towards a goal, rather than stressing out about things you cannot control. Consistent physical activity also results in a deeper sleep, and feeling rested is crucial to mental clarity and mood.
While playing sports and exercising has long been associated with benefits for the body, it also greatly impacts our minds. By strengthening cognitive function, providing clarity, improving mood and promoting sound sleep, joining your local sports team or incorporating exercise into your daily routine is a move both your body and mind will thank you for in the long run.
By Jess Walter