I’ve had an interesting case study happening in my living room the last few months. We’ve had Bobby, a Chinese foreign exchange student, living with us for the last year and a half. During the last school year, he ran cross country in the fall, played basketball in the winter and played soccer in the spring. This kept he and my two boys busy all year. They had to scramble to keep up with homework, but pulled it all off.
Last fall Bobby’s parents said he needed to focus his time on studying for the ACT college admissions test, so they decided he wouldn’t run cross country or play basketball. At first this was a great decision. He studied one hour every day and took a full test practice test every Saturday. He retook the ACT and got 6 points higher on his score. That is an incredible improvement!
Unfortunately, because he improved so much, he didn’t have the drive to study anymore. What used to be effective practice sessions turned into long hours on his iPod, computer or video games. Along with that I noticed a steady decline in his attitude. He laid around rather than becoming involved in our family activities. He turned inward and would spend hours in his room and by himself. He was moody, worried and stressed. He seemed to be living under a gray cloud.
He went home for two weeks for the Spring Festival in China, and I hoped it would perk him up. He had planned to start playing soccer when he returned, but sprained his ankle pretty badly before leaving. He saw a doctor in China and the doctor told him he couldn’t play soccer this year. He was devastated, and so was I. This was not going well for him. There was a night and day difference between this year and last in his demeanor.
I talked at length with him and he said he was going to ask to be the manager for the team. He would practice with them and help the coach. I thought that was a great compromise. He has been working with the soccer team for the last few weeks, and the old Bobby is back. Literally! He smiles again. He laughs. He was even singing as he got ready this morning (and it’s enough to make everyone laugh when he does that!). What in the world happened?
I have my theories, and I’m sure you’ve heard them before, but I really do think exercise can do all of us a world of good. I’m speaking from experience here. I’ve gone through phases with exercise. I’ve been a triathlete and a couch potato. I’m a little closer to the farming couch potato right now, and I’m feeling the difference.
Wanting to verify my thoughts, I’ve been researching the mental benefits of exercise, and these are some great ones I’ve found: (adapted from Sophia Breene, October 2013)
12 Unexpected Benefits of Exercise
Regardless of age or fitness level (yes, this includes everyone from around the block walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits.
1. Reduce stress
Exercise can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise increases norepinephrine, a chemical that helps manage how your brain responds to stress. So,working out reduces stress and boosts your ability to deal with it.
2. Boost happy chemicals
Exercise also releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness. Studies have shown that exercise can even help people that are clinically depressed . You can get that buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week.
3. Improve self-confidence
On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image.
4. Enjoy the great outdoors.
Exercising in the great outdoors can give you more for your effort . All that Vitamin D from the sun can help depression as well.
5. Prevent cognitive decline
I don’t like this one, but I sure feel it. As we get older, our brains get a little… mushy. Exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” Alzheimer’s, they can help prevent the loss that begins after age 45 .
6. Alleviate anxiety
The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down.
7. Boost brainpower
8. Sharpen memory
Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. For this reason, research has linked children’s brain development with level of physical fitness
9. Increase relaxation
Exercising around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep .
10. Get more done
Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers . While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian rhythms.
11. Tap into creativity
A heart-pumping gym session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards . Next time you need a burst of creative thinking, hit the trails for a long walk or run to refresh the body and the brain at the same time.
12. Inspire others
Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and get moving!
Just today I signed up for a new workout program. I’ve been feeling slumpy (is that a word??) and need a shot in the arm. I’m excited to see what other benefits it might bring. Get inspired by spring and take a walk. Join a class, find a walking buddy…you don’t want to miss out on all the good things exercise can bring your way! And soon, you may be singing in the morning too!
Dr. Michelle Jorgensen
5-Star Dentist – Total Care Dental
Specializing In Cosmetic Dentistry, Sedation Dentistry, Holistic Dentistry In American Fork, Utah
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