Written by Diana Galvan, M.S. Local Rehabilitation Counselor
There are big benefits to mentally connecting with your body’s movement. Muscle movement begins in the brain. If you visualize an exercise with specific muscle movement, as you do it, you can train your brain to send stronger signals. It is like a form of meditation to focus on the muscle that you are using to become more in tune with your body. On the other side of the pendulum, exercise can strengthen your brain and benefit emotional mental health too. As you are working out, picture your muscles contracting as you move through the exercise. For example, if you are doing triceps extensions, imagine the triceps muscle contracting and lengthening as you lift the weight and lower it behind you. Regular excise, especially cardio has a powerful way of strength training the brain. It stimulates a protein that acts as a fertilizer on the neurons in our brain. The powerful protein called Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) helps your body grow new neurons in the brain to improve your ability to learn new skills and information. BDNF also regenerates old and worn-out neurons that contribute to loss of memory, mood disorders, and inability to focus.
From the brain to your joint, movement has the power to improve every part of the body. And it’s not about high-impact exercise either. It’s simple, whether you choose to do small movements or new activities such as yoga or cycling increasing your movement will help your overall health. Start small: 10-15 minutes a day adds up and you can do it in the comfort of your home without having to change into your gym clothes. Find an exercise you love and commit to it daily. If you enjoy taking walks, set a reminder and make it happen. Group exercise is also a fun way to get moving and maybe even meet new people. If you’re looking for simple movement, YouTube videos have at-home workouts. Whichever exercise you choose, make it a fun activity you can do daily and change it up from time to time to keep it exciting.
Movement is medicine and can be the first step in treatment for stress, fatigue, or feeling unfocused.