Guest Column: Exercise and The Mind

Words on Health & Fitness from Roseanna Frechette

My love of exercise goes back to childhood. I have always simply loved to move! But not everyone does. Many people resist exercise. This resistance is understandable considering the long to-do list we carry around in our brains along with the details of accomplishing whatever professional and personal tasks are required for survival. Time and energy are at a premium now more than ever. We’ve learned to prioritize. For those who don’t love to move, exercise stays low on the list.

What if you knew that exercise is not only good for your body but that it can bring amazing benefits to your mind and your mood? What if someone told you it is actually possible to reverse some of the dreaded effects of aging with exercise? What if you were told you could actually strengthen your brain cells while you are strengthening the rest of your body?

It is common knowledge that exercise offsets physical disease. But the idea that exercise also strengthens one’s mind, while reversing mental deterioration assumed with old age, presents a newly recognized concept. Even if I did not enjoy walking, running, hiking, dancing, swimming and practicing yoga as I do, I’m sure the following groundbreaking information would convince me to get with it when it comes to exercise.

According to Harvard Professor, John J. Ratey, MD, “The real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping is that it makes the brain function at its best.”  These words are expounded upon in Ratey’s book “Spark,” the result of many years’ research. In a biological explanation, Ratey tells us “…moving our muscles produces proteins that travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, where they play pivotal roles in the mechanisms of our highest thought processes.”  The book goes on to include a key point I have continuously realized both during and after exercise: An oxygenated brain is an awake, clear, highly functioning brain.

We activate neurotransmitters with exercise while stimulating a release of good-mood hormones. Exercise boosts the brain’s blood volume thereby widening its blood vessels and preventing hardening of its arteries. It makes sense that with increased blood flow delivering important nutrients to the actual cells of our brains, those cells would not only become strong but would also grow!  This is precisely Ratey’s point.

So why not exercise? The resistance starts in your mind. Ironically, by strengthening that same mind with exercise, your resistance will most likely disappear. There is much help available to get you in the groove of prioritizing a mind-strengthening exercise path. The Oxford Club and Spa offers a wide variety of all-levels options in a fun setting where we enjoy ourselves while feeling the full range of positive results. We would be delighted to share the connection of fit body/fit mind with you!

Roseanna Frechette is Yoga Director and Business Development Rep for The Oxford Club and Spa, 1616 17th Street; 303-628-5522; This column first appeared in Downtown Denver News of LoDo.

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