Exercise is more than just getting fit. You’ve heard all the reasons to exercise; get fit, obtain and maintain a healthy weight, sleep better, have more energy and boost your mood. But did you know exercise is a potent stimulator of emotions, focus and concentration, as well as a powerful way to get and stay motivated?

Maintaining a regular exercise program will raise your self esteem not only because you are doing something for yourself on a regular basis, but also due to the release of feel good neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Exercise will drastically reduce anxiety and depression. Regular exercise coupled with a whole foods diet can decrease anxiety, depression and ADHD to the point of not needing medication.

It will decrease your stress which in turn will increase focus and concentration as stress hormones are released and then moved out of the body. Exercise supports the release pent up emotions, as many emotions are stored in the lungs, heart, muscles and cells. With sufficient exertion, stress hormones will decrease, esp cortisol. Cortisol increases abdominal fat, makes you feel anxious and increases your chances of yelling rather than responding kindly. Sitting around during the day, you know, the desk job, means cortisol stays in the system after each and every stress event.

Excess cortisol also affects the brain by degrading brain tissue faster than normal. Excess cortisol decreases the electrical signals in the hippocampus and the hippocampus is associated with learning, memory, and stress control. So you want to exercise! Morning exercise will decrease your daily cortisol levels and help keep them at healthy ranges throughout the day, even when stressful events show up.

Exercise primes the brain to learn faster. Exercise releases BDNF, (Brain derived neurotrophic factor) which helps the brain grow. BDNF improves the function of neurons, encourages their growth, and protects them against the natural process of cell death. Its a crucial biological link between thought, emotion and movement. Just 30-40 mins of aerobic exercise, several times a week will increase BDNF in the blood by 32%.

Exercise increases focus, concentration and memory. From a biological perspective, movement tells the brain that something important is about to happen. This is part of the hunter gatherer human from bygone years. A hungry tiger signals you to act quickly and run. Seeing a herd of elk triggers you to think strategically and prepare for a nice dinner. And what happens when your body is stressed and gets pushed into movement? Well, the brain tunes in, turns up the listening, seeing, and analytical abilities, noticing patterns and movements so it can figure out what and how to do what needs to be done. It also turns up the memory to find its way back home.

Dopamine is a reward neurotransmitter. It stimulates motivation and attention and is responsible for the feeling of satisfaction when you accomplish something. High levels of dopamine makes you want to do things and reassures you that doing it is worthwhile. You won’t get much done if you are low on dopamine because you won’t have fulfillment from doing the task so you’re unlikely to do it again. Exercise boosts motivation by stimulating the release of dopamine as well as triggering the creation of dopamine receptors in the reward center. More exercise means more dopamine, to a point.

Because exercise increases the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, you feel good, have less anxiety and feel more like being social when you have appropriate amounts of aerobic movement. When these are low in your body, you become depressed, disengaged and isolate yourself.

So, if you are ready feel good, have a faster and better working brain…get moving, at least 4 times a week!

Here’s to your health and wellbeing.