Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
Despite the fact that most view exercise as physically demanding rather than relaxing, a new study presents evidence to the contrary. The researchers ultimately found that aerobic exercise, or any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up and keeps you moving and sweating for a sustained period of time, has an "overwhelmingly beneficial impact on the brain," writes Business Insider in an article on the "one type of exercise [that's] the closest thing to a miracle drug … we have."
Authors of Harvard University's Mind and Mood blog even call aerobic exercise the "key for your head, just as it is for your heart." They write that regularly cycling, rowing, jogging, swimming, and the like "will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits." Aerobic exercise has even been used to successfully treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression.
Of course, the mental benefits are just as powerful as the physical. Aerobic exercise suppresses stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol while stimulating your mood-boosting endorphins. "Endorphins are responsible for the 'runner's high' and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts," adds Harvard. Along the behavioral spectrum, they also argue that "as your waistline shrinks and your strength and stamina increase, your self-image will improve. You'll earn a sense of mastery and control, of pride and self-confidence." Sounds like a good deal to us.
Head over to Harvard Health Publications for more, and share your favorite kind of aerobic exercise in the comments.