You already know that exercise is good for your body. But did you know that it can boost your brain and have a dramatic impact on your mental and spiritual health as well? Your mind and body are intimately connected. While your brain is the master control system for your body’s movement, the way you move can also affect the way you think and feel. I would say that physical activity is the foundation of wellness
for the entire being—body, mind, and spirit.
Powerful Benefits of Regular Physical Activity
Numerous scientific studies have confirmed the importance of exercise for health
; our bodies are made for movement, and they suffer if we become too sedentary. In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, researchers found positive correlation between regular exercise and better health according to several indicators, including bone density, blood pressure, cardiovascular fitness, blood sugar, body mass index, and cancer risk.
Studies also show the benefits for mental health, reducing the incident of mood disorders and improving cognitive function like memory and processing speed. Neuroscientists have observed that exercise stimulates the growth of neuronal pathways in the brain, so going out to take a walk is probably as important for your brain as sitting down to read a book. The act of walking and other forms of movement, including the development of one’s manual dexterity, is a very complex process for the brain and much of the brain is devoted to accommodating those connections.
Gentle, full-body exercise stimulates multiple areas of the brain as you repeatedly tense and relax the muscles. In response, the brain increases ganglia functioning by releasing hormones that, in turn, maximizes brain capabilities
. By developing those pathways, we also allow a greater range of cognitive and creative processing
since these pathways can be used to process all sorts of signals, not just those involved in physical movement.
Also, exercise makes you happier and more focused. One study found that those who exercise experience a 2-3 hour increase in the ability to focus after exercise. Also, exercise reduces the presence of the stress hormone cortisol, which in excess can cause anxiousness and lack of focus, not to mention all the deleterious health consequences of too much stress. In addition, exercise increased the presence of “happy hormones,” like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, enough to allow some people to stop medications for depression.
What’s Good for the Body Is Good for Your Spirit
Some people prioritize their spiritual development over their physical health, thinking the spiritual world is more important than the physical world. While it is true that growing beyond simple physical drives and desires is part of the spiritual growth process, it is a mistake to dismiss the importance of physical health.
Our physical bodies are our vehicle for this spiritual growth process, and we need to take good care of them. You wouldn’t take a long road trip without checking the oil and tire pressure in your car, so please take the same care for your soul’s journey. Physical health is the foundation of the body-mind-spirit triad that constitutes this human experience, so remember to nurture the body with healthy food and exercise to take care of your spirit. Without that, you will find yourself prone to being thrown off-balance mentally and spiritually as you make your way through life.
We cannot produce good results, no matter how excellent the designs and plans our brains create, if our bodies don’t support us with the strength to carry them out. Fortune and opportunity are available to everyone. But some are able to seize those opportunities; some are not. Work to develop a body full of vitality. Make it so that your body can support the goals you establish.
Keeping in good shape cannot be done by thought alone. It requires constant training of muscles, bones, and heart. Staying in shape not only promotes good health, but it is also a good way to develop self-control, integrity, responsibility, and willpower
In the course of training our bodies and awakening their sensitivity, we develop the focus to observe our own thoughts, emotions, and preconceptions
. And, through this process, we gain the ability to identify where and how our bodies feel uncomfortable, what types of emotions easily ensnare us, and when and how our consciousness is not yet free.
This is the beginning of change and healing. Change and healing begin in an awareness of what parts of us must change and be healed. It is only when we become aware of the previously unknown discomfort and lack of freedom in our bodies, emotions, and consciousness that we begin to change.
At first, we start with small changes, but through repetition we soon recover health and eliminate bad habits. In the process of improving our physical condition, we develop the power to look at ourselves more deeply and more closely, and at the same time to observe ourselves objectively
. This becomes a new discovery of who we are and brings us a new understanding of ourselves, and it also develops in us a new perspective and broadens our field of vision with respect to life.
Make Exercise a Daily Habit
The good news is that this does not require great dedication; it just requires good habits
. Researchers have found that regular, moderate exercise is all that’s needed, and what you need to maintain and improve can be adjusted to your current physical condition. Learn at least one skill you can use to train your body yourself, and steadily practice this in your daily life. Set a goal and continuously practice overcoming your physical limitations.
Your body is a great gift, but like any gift you receive in life, it must be cared for or you won’t get the best from it and it will wear out too soon. Loving your spirit means loving your body, regardless of its age or current condition. Show your love by adding exercise to your everyday routine today
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