How Movement Affects Your Feelings and Thoughts

By Toby Tunwase

Recent studies indicate that exercise has a stronger link to the brain than most people realize.

As a species, we’ve masterfully developed methods of feeding ourselves, working, getting entertained, and even finding mates with little physical effort.

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We are smart and adaptable, yes. But our sedentary ways are costly to both our minds and bodies. Physical inactivity has been linked to mental and physical health problems. And yet physical activity improves our bodies and minds also.

These are three benefits of movement that might surprise you:

1. Movement can boost your self-image

Your muscles and joints have sensory receptors that alert your brain when you move.

When you stretch your limbs, your brain perceives you as graceful. And if you lift a weight, it detects the muscular contractions and believes you are powerful.

Thus movement gives your brain a chance to form positive affirmations about how energetic, healthy, and capable you are.

2. Memory

Research says physical activity prevents damage in specific regions of the brain associated with memory. For example, when we move a protein, something vital is released into the bloodstream: the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It helps the brain change and adapt from experience, develop new neurons, and retains memories for a long time.

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3. Social skills are stimulated by exercise “high.”

Even though exercise-induced mood boosts are described explicitly as runner’s high, they accompany any physical activity. Biological chemicals endocannabinoids (which cannabis mimics) and dopamine boost your feeling of happiness and help you connect with others.