My previous blog was about the importance of sleep, and I think physical exercise is equally important. We’ve all heard it – the mind, body, and spirit are all connected. The more that I learn and grow, the more I view this as a powerful truth. There is plenty of scientific research that supports the mind-body connection. Admittedly, the spirit part of the equation is bit harder to pin down ;-), so let’s just focus on the other two.
The Benefits of Physical Exercise
We know that exercise is good for our bodies. It lowers cholesterol, reduces body fat, improves heart functioning, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, lowers the risk of diabetes and a multitude of cancers and so on. Recent research indicates the exercise not only improves our physical health, but it can greatly improve our emotional health as well. Recent studies suggest that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant or antianxiety medication in improving mood. Exercise can also be as effective as traditional “talk therapy.” Think about that…a powerful way to improve your physical and emotional well-being that is basically free!
The Mind-Body Connection
But there’s even more good news about the positive effects of exercise with regard to the mind-body connection. Scientists are now discovering that exercise enhances cognitive functioning as well. I have read several studies on this topic but one that stands out had participants randomly assigned to either an exercise group or a control group. The exercise group was able to be much more productive at work, basically getting about 9.5 hours of work in an 8 hour work period when compared with the control group’s work productivity (who got 8 hours of work in an 8 hour period). The researchers hypothesized that the exercise group’s alertness, concentration, mental acuity, and energy level were superior to that of the control group. So, the idea that one doesn’t have enough time to exercise because there is too much work to do really doesn’t hold water. One can actually be more productive at work because of regular exercise. Wouldn’t you want to get an extra 1.5 hours of work in per day and use the extra time for the exercise and other things?
Set a Modest Goal
You don’t have to be an exercise fiend to reap the benefits. Just three to four 30 minute sessions per week of mild to moderate exercise can do the trick. Of course, you should check with your physician before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have not been physically active for some time. It is best to start slowly and gradually work toward your goal. I’ll have more blog entries about exercise in the future to discuss the benefits of exercise and some tips on getting started or maintaining your exercise regimen that might prove helpful.