Exercise. We all know it makes you feel better, but now a research team from Princeton* has published its findings that “physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function”. This news was released in a July 3rd posting of Science Daily. If we had that information months ago it would have been a nice addition to Chapter 2: Brains Matter in Fitness (The Zen of Weight Loss).
“Mental stimulation, in the long run, is as essential to the body as food. The brain uses experience to wire itself. It uses the world during optimal growth phases to create certain specialized cells and connections that generate mass and energy. Throughout its life span, the brain builds new pathways that enable it to better adapt to change. Knowledge about the world stored chemically and electronically between our ears is as real to the brain as fresh experiences gathered from the world in a given moment. The brain can’t distinguish between the reality of dreams and actual life experience. The brain holds dear knowledge that assures its safety. Brains want the content of its life experience to be positive, meaningful, and emotionally satisfying.” ZWL
Brains are amazing things! So not only do our brains store information for future experiences, but they may also be promoting the growth of new neurons. Neurons that will be more chilled out! We embraced the value of connecting your exercise and fitness routine to the brain’s patterns, and now research has expanded beyond what we could have dreamed for. Could it be possible that exercise can help patients with anxiety disorders? The Princeton study suggests as much.
So, what does this mean for you? It is another reason to get on with your exercise program. I might even be so bold as to suggest it may help with maintaining long-term weight loss. Function of the body, metabolism and even the aging process are affected by stress. Years ago a facility where I worked had a program where handicapped adults came twice a week to exercise. One particularly friendly young man turned out to be a “not-so-young” man. His care provider told me he was almost 50 — yet he looked half that age. A lifetime of stress free, compassionate and joyful living had kept him young and healthy.
I recommend Mindfulness in the form of Deep Relaxation as a way to manage stress. It’s the cornerstone of my program Making Fitness Stick. How exciting to know you can reinforce your Relaxation (also known as Meditation to some) with regular exercise. Write and tell me how you have reduced your stress level. I really would like to know. Tweet me @kfilisullivan
*Princeton University (2013, July 3). Exercise reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress. Science Daily. Retrieved July 6, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130703160620.htm The research was part of the graduate dissertation for first author Timothy Schoenfeld, now a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as part of the senior thesis project of co-author Brian Hsueh, now an MD/Ph.D. student at Stanford University. The project also included co-authors Pedro Rada and Pedro Pieruzzini, both from the University of Los Andes in Venezuela. Many thanks from this author/trainer.