Hello my sunny Summer babes!
Summer has officially started, and with the warmer weather and influx of fun, outdoor activities, it’s the perfect time to finish our conversation about my top five Vital Foods.
As a quick refresher, Vital Foods are the foods that really feed your body and soul. Previously, we discussed how keeping your relationships, your work life, your self-care practices and your spirituality in check help maintain a balance between your physical and mental health. There is just one key ingredient left to tackle (maybe quite literally): exercise!
Now, there are SO MANY benefits to maintaining a regular exercise regime, and the most obvious is your physical appearance. It’s definitely the one people think of first. But today, I want to explore the ways that physical movement affects your mental health because it’s super important. There is a huge correlation between physical activity and our brain function.
Exercise helps our minds get the nutrients it needs to run efficiently, understand and communicate information, and regulate our mood. As a result, we work smarter, sleep better and look and feel like the rockstars we truly are.
So get ready to dive into how this Vital Food is just as much for your brains, as it is for your brawn!
Pump Up The Volume
You’ve heard of the cardiovascular system, right? It consists of your heart, your blood vessels and the system that transports blood through your body to all of your organs. Well, cerebrovascular refers to the blood flow specifically to your brain.
Exercise increases that blood flow. We need to keep the fluid moving through our brains properly to stimulate the growth of new neurons and to maintain glucose and lipid metabolism which bring nourishment to your noggin’. Not to mention, our blood contains the vital oxygen our mind needs, and without it, we risk impaired vision, movement, speech, and even a heart attack or stroke. Yikes! So, you want to make sure you’re getting enough movement to keep all the mental juices flowing.
What Matters Most
Your brain is made up of two types of tissues: white and grey matter. The grey matter contains the neurons and synapses that process information, and the white matter is the nerve fiber that connects the grey matter together, so it is essentially the middleman that helps you get sh#t done!
Exercise improves the structural integrity of the white matter of your brain. This leads to better cognition (i.e. thinking faster, better, and stronger.) Since the white matter helps your brain process, understand, and communicate messages, changes in this material is often associated with neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. So as you can tell, it’s super important to put movement into your daily routine to pump up the signal your brain uses to transmit information to your whole body and keep you healthy.
‘Cause It Makes You Feel Good!
The most best and most obvious benefit of exercise on your brain function is that it just makes you feel better. Increased movement leads to the release of serotonin in your brain (i.e. that coveted runner’s high). Serotonin is a chemical that works as a neurotransmitter, so you could call it your brain’s mail-carrier, taking messages from your brain to the rest of your bod. It’s a multi-tasker, regulating your mood, your appetite and your sleep / wake cycle. So you sleep better, have better energy, feel less lethargic and more physically strong.
Not to mention you’re a nicer, happier person to be around. 😉
The biggest question people have around exercise is how much is enough. I bet you can guess my answer—the amount is be different for everyone. And it also depends on your fitness goals. Do you want to maintain muscle tone? Lose a little weight, or a lot? Or do you just need to destress?
Now, if you just want to regulate your serotonin synthesis and maintain an even-keel mood, I recommend 3-4 hours of movement each week. The best part is that this recommendation can be broken down into snack-sized portions (like one hour, 3 times a week) or bite-sized bits (like 30 minutes a day, or even three 10-minute bursts each day).
If you want to focus on stress management (and couldn’t we all use a little more of that!), opt for flexibility exercises and strength training, like yoga and pilates. And if you want to focus on weight maintenance, don’t forget the classics that get your heart rate up like biking, running, and swimming. You can even go to a faster flow yoga. I recommend a combo of aerobic activity and strength training to stay fit. I personally like hiking, yoga and spin class to stay in shape.
There is no right or wrong to figuring out what feels good to you, but without a doubt, figure it out cause it’s so important to get exercise! Two hundred years ago, our ancestors were spending a lot of time on farms, with tons of physical activity, but now a sedentary lifestyle, mostly behind a desk or in front of a computer, is the norm. There is even research to suggest that our current generation will actually die earlier than our parents because we sit so much. #newworldproblems
And let’s be clear, exercise is not a punishment! It’ll make you feel calmer, more grounded and connected to your body. It’s a Vital Food, after all, so it will feed your body AND your soul. Let it be joyful! I really challenge you to reframe the way you think (pun intended) about exercise and commit to adding more movement into your weekly routine starting, like, right now!
What is one way you can add more movement into the upcoming week? Get specific now! And let me know in the comments below for a little extra accountability. Get it moving baby!
LOVE + boosted brain power!