Fitness, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Research Findings , , , ,

The Brain Controls the Body, But Can the Body Control the Brain?

We all know our moods can affect how active we are, but did you know how much you move can also have an affect on our mood?

That’s right, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School, the connection between your brain and your body is a two-way street. They found that consistent exercise, such as running, cycling, and aerobics can affect your mood by increasing a protein found in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or simply BDNF, which aids in the growth of nerve fibers.

Other studies have shown that those with ADHD can reduce their symptoms (although only temporarily) by doing 20-minutes of exercises such as cycling. Afterward, participants were motivated to do tasks that required thought and were less depressed, tired, and confused.

Forms of meditation, such as yoga, qigong, and tai chi were all shown to be helpful at alleviating depression, by allowing people to pay closer attention to their bodies and not on external factors. These changes in posture, breathing, and rhythm have all shown to affect the brain in a positive way. In some cases, people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) no longer met the qualifications for it once they began practice meditative movement.

Additionally, another study has shown that while exercise is beneficial for well being, self-esteem if further improved when moving synchronously with someone else. Moving along with someone else also showed signs of cooperation and charity toward others, as well as improved memory and recall skills.

Ultimately, these findings only stress the close connection held between your brain and body, and show that how much you move can not only help you stay physically fit, but can also affect the way you think and feel. These findings also present an alternative remedy to more traditional treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and medication.

So next time you find yourself exhausted and completely overwhelmed, put on your sneakers and take a few minutes to get some exercise. You’ll not only sleep better, but in time, you may find yourself feeling more positive about life as well.

  • jesspikowski

    I definitely can relate to this! This is why I love working out in the morning- I always notice huge changes in my mood and productivity for the rest of the day and I feel way less exhausted then when I don't work out. Glad to know there's some science behind it!

  • ariagray

    Great post! I read this today when I was trying to write a very difficult paper and it inspired me to put on my sneakers and go for a walk. When I came back to my desk, the writing process was so much easier! Last semester it was hard to adjust to graduate school and stick to an exercise schedule, but this semester I have gone back to my habit of exercising in the morning which I did back when I was a "real person" with a job and it has made me so much more motivated, organized, and happy!