Physical Morality: Our Obligation To Strengthen Our Bodies

“Maintaining and preserving wellness is a duty, a privilege. Few are conscious of this piece of the wellness puzzle called physical morality” Dr. Trent McKittrick, DC

Modern Western culture has witnessed the slow erosion of many values it once held dear. Driven by endless opportunity for mindless consumption, most have stopped contemplating how to best live their lives and find purpose. Narcissism, consumerism, and moral relativism have combined to create a convenience-oriented culture that is typically far more concerned about rights (what I get) than responsibilities (what I do).

The human inclination to justify our own actions has magnified to epic heights only to leave our people alienated and emotionally fractured. The result is a growing mental health crisis. While I’ve often advocated an earnest quest for truth and intentional values as the path to fulfillment, I’ve recently been surprised to read more and more classical texts that profess the value of “physical morality”. Sure, we’ve known that respect for our human biological needs to move and exercise improves both health and happiness. Yet, I’d never made the jump from human need to ethical requirement. Could it really be a moral obligation to respect and train our physical bodies?

A superficial scan of the environment might seem to contradict any concept of physical morality? For many, religion is the primary source of what is right and wrong. The most popular religion of the West is Christianity, where my experience shows very little example of physical duty. Priests and pastors seem to look and eat like the average American. I’ve never heard of a sermon promoting physical morality and I’m fairly certain that most services end with the consumption of donuts, cookies, and sugar-infused drinks.

For the more intellectually inclined, their individual moral concepts might be created with the direction of philosophy, ethics, sociology, and psychology courses. Yet, again, my considerable time sitting in these classes and reading these texts never prompted contemplation about physical morality. Still, others are only socialized through public schools that continue to de-emphasize health and physical education while promoting a daily bouquet of sweets and sitting. One is left to conclude that clearly fitness and ethical responsibility have little to do with each other.

Yet, I believe these are all just symptoms of our time- an era that is more concerned about feelings and safe dogmas than nuanced truth and dialogue. We have forgotten the truth of physical morality and find ourselves in a human spiritual crisis, at least somewhat caused by our neglect of this notion. A scan of most religious and cultural traditions indicates a long history of respect for the principles of physical morality. In all 5 of the world’s dominant religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – there is an extensive history of fasting. The mastery of consumption has always been a prerequisite to human spirituality.

Christianity features verses prompting adherents to “Honor God with your bodies” because they are “temples of the holy spirit.” Sloth and gluttony, 2 out of 7 deadly sins, refer to neglecting responsibilities for physical morality. Likewise, ethical philosophies, like Stoicism, have always promoted periods of voluntary discomfort and physical refinement as necessities to personal growth and actionable moral constitution. And most great cultures, from the Athenians to the 19th century Germans to the early 20th century United States, believed physical fitness and health should be a full third of the educational formula.

Still, the best argument I know of for physical morality comes from British Philosopher Herbert Spencer who wrote:

“We do not yet realize the truth that as … the physical underlies the mental, the mental must not be developed at the expense of the physical…. Perhaps nothing will so much hasten the time when body and mind will both be adequately cared for, as a diffusion of the belief that the preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality. Men’s habitual words and acts imply the idea that they are at liberty to treat their bodies as they please. Disorders entailed by disobedience to Nature’s dictates, they regard simply as grievances: not as the effects of a conduct more or less flagitious. Though the evil consequences inflicted on their dependents, and on future generations, are often as great as those caused by crime; yet they do not think themselves in any degree criminal.”

What is morality if not adherence to Nature’s dictates- to our best conceptions of truth? How is it okay to consistently abuse and neglect the vessel from which we experience and operate in the world? Physical morality is a justifiable element of every ethical code because the maintenance of physical health and vigor amplifies the individual’s ability to behave morally and contribute positively in every other realm. Physical morality does not argue that we must attain a certain level of physical ability. It is not an excuse for the strong to humiliate the weak, but rather for all to bond over mutual self-development- that we should respect our individual physical bodies and seek a balanced approach to its nourishment and vitality.

The best defense for physical morality is modern life. The absence of models or socially prioritized development promoting healthy living indoctrinates generations with habits that ensure the pains and limitations of malaise. Society’s lack of intentionality is exploited masterfully by saboteurs of health happy to sell addiction.

When looking at the state of physical and emotional health and the tremendous financial and experiential tolls our future generations face as a consequence of our physical decay, it is hard to argue that the way we are raising kids is unacceptable. A Harvard study on child obesity indicates that of today’s youth, over 57% will be obese by the time they are 35. Actions mean more than words, particularly in the realm of physical morality. Our example shapes the next generation more than any other factor, and right now that is the problem.

Define Values

As I’ve explained in my article on how to define and act on your values, values are concepts of truth we aspire towards and constantly grow towards understanding better. While we may never have a perfect understanding of these targets, by aiming at them we are far better off than just pretending there is no right or wrong.

If anything has hurt humanity on a collective and individual level it is the belief that morals are all relative and it’s just as well to live in an impulsive pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. Hello, depression. Whether intentional or not, we all adopt values and their proximity to truth along with how we live up to them is the best determinant of our fulfillment. For most a set of values has been adopted that is creating the expectations, attitudes, and likelihood of mindless manipulation that are starving the human spirit.

Concepts of morality are not important so that people can feel morally superior, they are essential because they promote the common good. The point of my argument is not for fitness enthusiasts to pat themselves on the back while condemning those less active. The purpose is to acknowledge that our society conditions sedentary, junk food infused lifestyles and that we have a duty to address this.

By fighting to recapture an ethos of physical morality, we can create more successful, fulfilled generations. A society that does not share central values will grow increasingly alienated and hostile. We must share more than space and legal codes. We must define the pursued truths that bind us and collectively work to instill these in future generations. As it stands now, the only major influencers fighting to create values in society are the marketing gurus of our Saboteurs of Health in America. Schools must begin to combat them.

Define Physical Morality

Of all moral concepts, perhaps none is more overlooked and more essential than physical morality. Certainly, all values should be balanced to create a nuanced view of morality that avoids extremes. Physical Morality is only one element of ethical development and I am certainly not claiming to have authority in the realm of ethics.

There are certainly far more moral people than I, many of which don’t necessarily prioritize their health. Furthermore, a capable body cultivated without other ethical domains is susceptible to fascism, religious fundamentalism, or any other tyrannical ethic. Whatsmore, any virtue in the extreme can be a vice. My argument is not that people are immoral if they don’t value health, but simply that physical morality belongs in the pantheon of moral qualities and it is a vital part of the discussion, that most have forgotten.

At the root of human existence is the physical body from which we interpret the world. Just as baby’s minds are developed through physical experience and based upon the physical vehicle, so do the ethics of a strong society. How can we create the highest contribution to those around us, if we do not respect our physical bodies and their needs? At the very least, we have a lower ethical ceiling when we don’t honor physical morality.

Traditional concepts of physical morality are probably not what you’d imagine. Physical morality is not characterized by the locked up meathead who can’t reach back to pull off his shirt, or the narcissistic toned gal snapping gym selfies in her bra each day.

While the 1980’s brought us the bizarre conception of “manliness” as steroid infused hyper-masculinity, physical morality has traditionally abhorred the idea of any fitness extreme. It has always been a balanced image of healthy physical vigor- far more Audi Murphy and John F. Kennedy (two actual American Heroes) than John Cena or Schwarzenegger’s Commando.

In the 1980’s Clint Eastwood and the Marlboro man, with their quiet confidence, were replaced by less adaptable extreme images of what a man should look like. But what about ladies? If classical concepts of physical morality focused on men, perhaps that is where we can take the old and improve.

The pre 5th century BCE Athenian moral code “sought organic harmony and stressed an elementary curriculum in which grace and poise were not subordinate to stamina and physical endurance”. Similarly, notions such as Georges Hebert’s Natural Method had a very strong vision of physical morality’s goals being to “make strong beings, not specialists…, but beings developed physically in a complete and useful manner”.

Physical morality has always harmonized both feminine and masculine qualities. This paradox marks the nuanced balance where truth typically lies. Best expressed in the Daoist Yin-Yang, Eastern philosophies have long understood the harmony of feminine and masculine. We are individuals, and while women may gravitate towards feminine expression more than men, both must honor their authentic selves with complete, complex development.

“Womanhood” and “manliness” both require strong physical vitality and the authentic expression of the individual’s true masculine and feminine nature. Raw power and intensity are useless and damaging without balance, mobility, and restraint, just as patience and compassion without discipline or firm boundaries lead to docile victimhood. Woman and man, alike, thrive when respecting a sense of physical morality.

Spirit and Energy

Physical morality is not only physical training and ability but an ethos that directs this path towards useful inclinations. Hebert’s Natural Method was responding to the decreased physical wellbeing and capability that followed industrialization. He believed, “only the strong will become useful in the difficult circumstances of life…”. Strength, as Hebert uses it, is better conceived as fitness.

We must be fit to be useful- a notion that holds just as much significance today, despite our increased mechanization. In fact, this essential element of human thriving must become even more of a point of emphasis as our world demands less moving. Without it, we are simply less capable, and less human.

Training the body teaches what Hebert would call “moral energy”. Theodore Roosevelt considered a “strenuous life” the only path to moral living. In their minds, physical laziness begets mental laziness. Physical training requires one to explore their own limitations, strategize, adapt, and overcome adversity. It requires one to master their impulses to become the guide of their own lives.

The practice of exercise over time is the discipline of willingly entering discomfort in the short term for a long-term good. Physical morality respects the body and promotes energy over malaise through consistent practice. Coach’s have long preached to teams about “heart”, which seems to be best encapsulated by teammates grinding through physical adversity to find inner strength. While moral strength is possible without physical training, I doubt it is as common in a physically deprived society.

“A soft, easy life is not worth living if it impairs the fiber of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great, and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage… For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

A shared value system must be instilled that clarifies heroism and pushes us towards our heroic capabilities. What is the hero? She is physically capable, mentally resilient, morally inclined, and purposefully brave. Is citizenship at all a goal for our children, today? How can we preach rights without responsibilities?

Bravery, selflessness, and integrity are virtues predicated on activities and experiences. Like cognitive and physical skills, these virtues must be refined through practice and the best practice is rooted in shared physical development- in physical Rites of Passage. The fragility of young-adults’ characteristic of growing up in a world devoid of honesty, constructive criticism, expectations, and consequences do not serve them, long-term.

As Ben Sasse asserts in his book, The Vanishing American Adult, “We should be figuring out how to help build them a menu of really hard tasks to tackle.”

Physical rites of passage are the most powerful way to develop self-actualized, united people with shared values. To teach morality without ever physically demonstrating virtues is like learning to cook from reading a book while never touching food. The idea of a rite of passage itself is rooted in a physical experience that creates understanding.

We live in the physical world and are most inspired by the physical act- the epic heroic story. Nothing unites us like the physical challenge- the proximity and raw vulnerability of shared physical challenge. Picture the team cheering on a teammate as she embarks on arduous training or the chills you feel while watching movie scenes displaying physical heroism.

Let’s shift the conversation from what we want, to what we want to be capable of – what do we want to become. Healthy dialogue is the backbone of strong communities and there has been too little promoting the duties and values that develop great people.

Today’s article was written by Shane Trotter and is shared from the following website”

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39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise – Part 4

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food Hippocrates

Lifestyle Benefits of Exercise

We’re still missing a pretty big list of benefits. They don’t fit neatly into the other three categories, but they’re just as important. Since they are a little more broad, I’ve put the rest of them in their own category.

Everyone wants to be able to enjoy life, and strive to live better. You could be going through a rough patch or simply playing the hand life dealt you. Others are trying to get past addictions, or live with disorders that make it more difficult to function in society. Research is now investigating if exercise can somehow alleviate the struggles of dealing with such issues.

Our professional and academic lives are two other important areas where we spend a considerable amount of time. Being able to perform effectively in these aspects can help us a great deal in reaching our bigger goals.

As we start to get older, we also begin to have other concerns. Risk of dementia and cognitive decline increase as we get older. Finding out how to avoid or delay it becomes increasingly important.

25. Helps Treat Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders affect a lot of people in a big way. In 2013, an article reviewed recent studies looking at the effects of exercise as a way to alleviate the symptoms.

They noted several underlying physical and mental mechanisms accounting for these effects, and saw several meta-analysis showing positive improvement of anxiety in clinical settings.

26. Can Help People With ADHD

ADHD in children has seen a sharp rise in the last couple of decades, and is a big concern today. As it should be, it affects over 2.5 million school children in the US alone.

Exercise’s benefits for executive functions would hopefully help this particular group of individuals. A short bout of moderate exercise was shown to improve math and reading scores in children, with an added benefit with those children with ADHD. Some have even seen exercise as a cost effective alternative to medication. Without the side effects.

27. Improves Your Quality of Sleep

Sleep is one of the major areas of efficient brain functioning. It has a direct effect on memory, self regulation, and cognition. Simply put, better sleep means a better brain.

One study looked at adults that had numerous complaints about lack of quality sleep. The study examined several factors. Gender, age, and physical function were observed over a period of 12 months. The results found that adults that were the least active benefited most from exercise when it came to quality of sleep.

Exercise can do more than help those with insomnia or sleep disturbances. It’s good for normal healthy adults and adolescents as well. A meta-analysis found that total sleep time and fewer disturbances during the night were positive side effects of acute bouts of exercise.

It’s important to note, the relationship between sleep and exercise has had some varying results. A lot of the variation has occurred when subjects have known sleep issues such as insomnia. Typically, exercise in the long term has beneficial results. Certain variables like the type of exercise, duration, and intensity are still being explored to find the cause of certain types of research results.

28. Reduces Migraines and Headaches

Although the data on exercise and headaches are a bit scarce, there does seem to be evidence for indirect benefits.

Some of the biggest causes of headaches are inadequate sleep and stress. So it should be no surprise that exercise – which has positive effects on both of those causes – can help reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches.

For the hard evidence, two studies have had positive findings. One study in Sweden gave an exercise program to people with migraines to see if it could improve their symptoms. The study saw pretty positive results in this area. The second study was a large cross sectional study done in Norway. They found that people who were more sedentary were more likely to get headaches than their more physically active counterparts.

Although uncommon, some people have reported exercise causing the onset of headaches. These people are in the minority, but be careful. You should always consult your doctor before engaging in regular physical activity.

29. Reduces Risk of Stroke

Another obvious benefit of exercise, but also worth mentioning. Exercise helps reduce the risk of stroke. In fact, a study presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2008, showed that healthy cardiovascular men and women could reduce the risk of stroke by 40%. Even more encouraging was that people who exercised moderately had a significant chance of lowering their risk. So you don’t have to run marathons to reduce your risk.

30. Lowers Your Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s

In one of the longest studies of it’s kind – 35 years to be exact – one study followed over 2000 men. They found several healthy behaviors exhibited by these men that reduced the chances of dementia by a whopping 60 percent. Regular exercise, while not the only behavior, was identified as being the largest contributing factor in reducing dementia.

Another recent study took a look at the factors that can attribute to dementia. This study found that exercise as the most significant factor to protect against the onset of dementia. The study cites several major factors that can increase your chances of developing dementia, but the largest – being physical inactivity – can increase your chance by 82%.

Here’s another take away from that study. By exercising just one hour a week, you can cut your chance of developing dementia in half. And for those that can’t – or have difficulty – doing more intense physical exercise, won’t have to worry. The study claims that moderate exercise to the tune of 30 minutes 5 times a week can see these benefits as well.

Coincidentally, and I’m not joking here, one of the lead authors of the study is Professor Brayne.

31. Helps You Eat Healthier

If you’ve ever started an exercise program and stuck with it for a period of time, you may have noticed your eating habits changing as well. Apparently this is a happy side effect of exercise.

One study looking at weight control found that the greater the intrinsic motivation to exercise (intrinsic motivation being things like interest and enjoyment of the activity), was a high predicting factor in helping one control their eating.

A different study examined the effects of a moderate level workout in respect to their motivation for food. The study found two interesting things. Not only did it decrease motivation for food, but they also saw an increase in physical activity throughout the day for those that exercised. A hint that exercise may help you be more physically active even when not exercising.

Finally, there has even been a evidence that links exercise to a change in diet. Specifically, researchers have noticed that there is an increase in the amounts of fruits and vegetables you eat. This has been found for not only adults, but in high school students as well.

32. Increases Your Productivity

Exercise impacts more than your academic or personal life. It can also have a positive effect on your professional life as well.

Over 200 white collar workers from 3 organizations were used to study exercise in the workplace. Researchers found that people reported several positive effects in the workplace from working out during their break or if they exercised before work. The benefits included better time management, better mood, and increased employee tolerance. On days were employees didn’t exercise, the benefits were not seen.

Another study from Brigham Young University looked at different factors that contributed to the loss of productivity in the workplace in almost 20,000 employees. Researchers found that people who exercised only occasionally or not at all were more likely to report lower productivity than employees who exercised regularly.

33. Protects Against A Sedentary Lifestyle

Yes, you can exercise regularly and still have a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, research is showing that being sedentary is an independent health risk. Meaning that it doesn’t matter if you’re a desk jockey, or a marathon runner. Large amounts of time sitting on the couch or at a desk are horrible for you. Not information I was excited to hear as most of my work is done sitting down.

If you are exercising on a regular basis, though, you can breathe (just a little bit) easier. A study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that those who are physically fit have less adverse health effects from a sedentary lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean you can sit in front of a TV 4 hours a day.

34. Boosts Creativity

A research study back in 1985 revealed that a exercise program helped college students gain modest – but statistically significant – gains in two of three creative tests.

Going one step further, another study took a look at the duration of exercise and its effect on creativity. Researchers found that exercise not only boosted creativity, but did so immediately following it. The effect even lasted up to 2 hours after the exercise was complete.

This doesn’t mean the immediate effects of exercise on creativity are 100% clear. One set of researchers looked at the short term effect of intense and moderate exercise. They also ran tests on fit and unfit groups of people. They found that taking a creative test following the workouts actually hampered creative activity. The group that was in better shape, though, did happen to fare better on the test.

It may be that intense exercise may not be the best path to creativity. Further research will tell. For anyone looking to get a boost of creativity, however, could try low impact activities. One study has found that the simple act of walking helped increase creativity. Creativity is a hot area, and which methods of exercise can boost it are under investigation.

35. Helps Prevent and Recover From Drug Abuse

The effects that exercise has on drug abuse, and those trying to recover from from it, is a relatively new research area. So there’s not tons of information out there yet. The key issues and mechanisms for prevention and recovery of different types of drugs are being studied. The ways that exercise may be able to aid in recovery is a promising avenue.

Several studies have noted an inverse relationship between physical activity and drug abuse, and has done so on a consistent basis. They say psychologically exercise improves self esteem and increases well being, both of which can affect drug abuse. Also, research has shown that exercise reduces anxiety and depression, which are cues for at risk populations to relapse.

Furthermore, there are biological changes in the brain that may be an underlying cause of the prevention and recovery. Both the inducement of creating new neurons in the hippocampul region of the brain, and also increased ability in the prefrontal cortex – which helps humans plan, make decisions, and reduce impulses.

The initial findings of such programs are positive. A recent meta-analysis in 2014 took a look across 22 studies to find a long term effect for substance abuse. They found that moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise can be an effective tool in increasing abstinence and can lessen effects of withdrawal symptoms. And it can do so for several types of substance use disorders.

36. Reduces Cravings and Withdrawal Symptoms

What about other substance abuse? Sure enough, scientists are taking a look at the effects that exercise might have on other substances, including one of the biggest unhealthy habits in the world – smoking.

One review showed that not only could cravings be reduced with short bouts of exercise, but it could help with tobacco withdrawal as well. The reduction in withdrawal symptoms were seen with moderate intensity exercise, but intense exercise would increase symptoms. They also saw reductions in the actual desire to want to smoke.

There is also evidence that exercise as an intervention method could work for those trying to quit. Larger studies need to be done, but a review of literature has seen exercise help increase abstinence rates.

37. Helps With Alcohol Dependency

Exercise used together with other traditional therapy techniques for alcohol dependency is also a fairly new area of research. There are far fewer studies looking at the effects of exercise on alcohol rehabilitation than smoking. But research is underway.

One review found six studies that measured drinking episodes, days of abstinence, and cravings. Of those six studies, four of them found improvements when compared against groups that did not use exercise. The remaining two failed to find any positive or negative results.

In a slightly longer study in 2014, sedentary patients were split into three groups for 12 weeks. One group did moderate exercise, another group aerobic exercise, and the third only received health advice. The results indicated that the patients in both exercise groups reported fewer drinking days and heavy drinking days when compared to a group that only received health advice. Researchers also noted that the patients who exercised in the group had more positive effects than that of just exercise alone.

38. Jumpstarts Learning

There are some other related exercise benefits that are most likely responsible for improved learning. The sharper memory, an increase in attention, and exercises ability to spur the growth of new brains cells would be the big ones.  They can all play a vital role in helping one learn and retain new information.

There’s a more interesting benefit of exercise that’s just as important. Not only does exercise help prime the brain to learn new information, it actually increases the rate at which you learn. One study looked at this quality, specifically. They took three groups and subjected them to different levels of exercise. One high impact, one low impact, and one group with no exercise.

Not only did the group with the high impact exercise learn 20% faster, they found a strong correlation with learning speed and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). They also noticed that levels of dopamine were tied to better intermediate memory recall, and epinephrine was tied to long term memory retention.

39. Improves Academic Performance

Learning is obviously important in academic settings. Especially when you are a young adult learning the skills that will set you up for success in your personal and professional life in adulthood. It also applies to those who go back to school for higher education.

A meta-analysis covering 59 studies looked at the effects of physical activity and physical fitness on academic achievement. Not only did they find a strong, positive effect on achievement and cognitive abilities, they noted that the strongest effects came from aerobic exercise.

While the effects of exercise and academic achievement are known to some, the trend in school policy has not been so quick to embrace the mounting evidence. So while the details of what types of exercise and how much are being verified, here’s what the data says so far.

BMI is routinely used as an indicator of general fitness, but that doesn’t translate into how fit a person really is. Another study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that being physically fit was a better predictor of high test scores than BMI. So be careful not to equate BMI to fitness!

This article was written by Eric and is shared from the following website:

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39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise – Part 3

The greatest wealth is Health Unknown

Today’s article is part 3 of our 4 day series! Be sure to read all 4 posts on the 39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise!

Neurobiological Benefits of Exercise

One of the coolest things about exercise is how you can physically and chemically alter your brain. You indirectly transform it to become a better machine by submitting your body to a temporary state of stress. So not all stress is bad.

Your brain is the most complex organ in the body. As a species, it got us to where we are today, and who knows where it can take us in the future. It’s more than a mass of grey goo. It’s a complex organization of physical connections awash in a sea of neurochemicals. Exercise enhances the hardware of your organic computer. And then it supplies it with high octane fuel so that you can operate at a higher level.

19. Increases Resilience To Stress

Exercise is a great way to beat stress. I don’t want to beat that into the ground, those are pretty well known. But can the benefit stretch beyond just relieving stress? Recent research out of Princeton took a look at some of the less understood mechanisms of stress relief to tackle that question.

These scientists ran an experiment on mice that exercised and those that didn’t. What they saw was that exercise actually reorganizes the structure of the brain to react differently to a stressful situation. The second finding was noticing that the brain increased the release of a specific neurotransmitter when a stressful situation was encountered. The role of this neurotransmitter was to reduce the excitability – or firing – of neurons.

What’s the significance? It means that exercise helped reduce the level of anxiety when exposed to stress. A neuro-level coping mechanism used by the brain. Those who exercise are better able to deal with stressful situations in their day to day lives. The result is better health, better decisions, and more control throughout the day.

The research also has implications for treating those with anxiety disorders.

20. Increases Energy

I think we all feel a dip in physical and mental energy at different times of day. So what’s the best way to grab a second wind? It may actually be by getting your body moving.

It’s logical to think that exercise can leave you exhausted and drained. A study from the University of Georgia, however, looked at the effect of light to moderate exercise on energy levels. They found that low or medium impact activity could actually increase energy levels and reduce fatigue. This benefit was seen for sedentary adults that were considered healthy. Even more surprising, this was independent of current fitness levels of the individual.

21. Reduces Fatigue

Some of these energized feelings could be because of the dopamine and seratonin that get released in the brain. The lead author of the study suggested that this research that exercise may have a more direct effect on the central nervous system. A similar study at the University of South Carolina actually backs up this claim. At South Carolina they found that exercise actually ramps up the creation of new mitochondrial cells in the brain, which can help guard against mental fatigue.

22. Makes Your Brain Bigger

You might be amazed to learn that exercise literally makes your brain bigger!

Healthy but sedentary adults were used in a study to look at this effect of exercise. When put through an aerobic fitness program for 6 months, the researchers saw a significant increase in both white matter and grey matter in the brain. The control group, which only did stretching and toning over the same period of time, saw no increase in the volume of their brain.

23. Slows Down Brain Atrophy

Starting around age 30 our brains start to lose volume naturally. Most notably in the hippocampus. This can affect cognitive abilities, memory, and even spur the onset of dementia.

Research found that moderate exercise in healthy older adults helped them gain 1-2% volume in the hippocampus area. This would be the equivalent of reversing brain aging by about 2 years. Additionally, the researchers found that there were gains in spatial memory for this study.

Another study in 2013 saw a correlation between exercise habits and brain volume. Participants were adults between the ages of 18 to 45. After the scientists adjusted for factors such as age, gender, and brain volume they compared the results against each persons exercise habits. They found that the minutes of exercise per week correlated with the size of their hippocampus. The research shows that regular exercise may be able to protect against the brain’s natural shrinkage.

24. Increases the Birth of New Brain Cells

The process of growing new brain cells is called neurogenesis. Scientists recently identified a brain chemical called BDNF – that’s Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor for any science nerds – that promotes this process in our brains.

While the first studies were done in rats, researchers are beginning to look at the relationship between exercise and BDNF in human subjects. A review published in 2014, looked at 32 articles and tallied up the results. Overall, they saw short intense and chronic exercise elevated BDNF levels in humans.

This same studied also noted that results for exercise were different than normal physical activity. So taking a walk around the block may not generate increased BDNF to your brain. Future research should be able to tell us how intense activities need to be for increased BDNF.

This article was written by Eric and is shared from the following website:
Stayed Tuned for Section 4 on Monday!



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39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise – Part 2

From the bitterness of disease man learns the sweetness of health Catalan Proverb

Today’s article is a continuation of yesterday’s post! Be sure to read all 4 posts on the 39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise!

Psychological Benefits of Exercise

Psychological Benefits of Exercise

You can’t talk about the brain without talking about psychology. Our moods, personalities, and motivations are what make us mentally unique. There are a number of things that can occur throughout the day that can affect our mental states. It’s constantly changing, and life is going to give you a fair share of stressful situations.

Exercise has the ability to restore positive feelings, make you resilient to stressful situations, and might even increase your happiness levels.

10. Exercise Alleviates Stress

This exercise benefit isn’t going to shock anyone. It’s a well known psychological benefit. Also one of the biggest reasons why people take up exercise. The science behind it is well documented, as well as it’s calming effect on a stressed mind. But how does a physically stressful activity on the body actually end up relieving stress?

It’s a bit of a puzzle, but the long-term benefits definitely compensate for the short-term stress. For starters, it releases neurochemicals into the brain. The big ones being endorphins, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals are associated with better cognitive functioning, alertness, and elevated moods. In addition to dumping feel-good chemicals into your head, it also helps purge stress hormones from your body – cortisol and adrenaline.

From a psychological perspective, exercise also gives you a way to distract yourself from focusing on daily stressors. This could be from your boss, a task at work, or any number of personal problems. When the mind has nothing else to focus on, it will drift. Many people can fixate on immediate issues, specific stressful problems, or strong emotional feelings. So exercise can simply give you an immediate task to focus your energy on.

So while this benefit of exercise won’t come as a surprise to you, it’s still one of the best, time-tested reasons to get out there and get moving. As we’ll explore in other articles, stress is one of the biggest enemies of efficient brain operation. And exercise is an efficient stress management technique.

11. Gives You Emotional Resilience

Stress also affects your emotional state. Strong emotions can be an unfortunate side effect of stressful events.

One study separated participants between participants between those who exercised regularly and those who didn’t. Both groups were equal in mood before the experiment. Then they were exposed to a stressful event. They observed that the physically fit group actually had smaller declines in positive mood than their more sedentary counterparts.

It seems that people who get regular exercise are able to maintain a more positive attitude – and emotional outlook – after something stressful occurs. This gives exercisers yet another level of protection from the day to day stress that happens to all of us.

12. Reduces Anxiety

A meta-analysis published in 1995 had researchers take a look at 40 studies to measure the effects of exercise on anxiety. In analyzing several different study types, they found that exercise had a low to moderate effect on reducing anxiety levels. They also noted that adults who led a more stressful lifestyle benefited most from the exercise. So for those that are feeling anxious from stress will benefit even more from exercise than someone who isn’t.

13. Increases Pain Tolerance

It has been pretty well documented that intense exercise can dull pain in the short term. Your body releases endorphins and other chemicals during and shortly after exercise that will decrease pain in the body.

But it’s more than just short term. Exercise could be the key for those of you looking to increase your mental grit. A small study published in 2014 from Australia showed that participants who completed a six-week aerobic exercise program increased their tolerance for pain. It wasn’t that they felt less pain. In fact, researchers noted that participants were feeling pain at the same levels as before. The change was actually a mental one. They were able to withstand pain at higher levels after they had completed the exercise regimen.

14. Fights Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental conditions that affect people worldwide. An estimated 350 million according to the World Health Organization. Even scarier is the fact that depression is on the rise. It is set to be the 2nd biggest medical condition by 2020.

A large meta-analysis analyzed the effect of exercise on alleviating symptoms of depression. Two things were found from the review. They found positive results from a significant and moderate relief from depression. The second result came from the comparison of exercise to other forms of psychological therapy or drugs. Exercise was found to be just as effective as the other alternatives.

Pretty important news for a nation that has a slight addiction to pills and prescriptions. People who may be looking for other, more cost-effective ways to help fight depression, regular exercise could hold promise.

15. Prevents Depression

Preventing depression is even more important than fighting it. I won’t use a cliche quote referencing ounces and pounds here. But let’s agree prevention is far better than curing. Research tells us exercise helps the symptoms of depression, but scientists didn’t understand how. At least until recently.

In a study published in September 2014, researchers found a mechanism that helped explain the puzzle. And not just fight it, but help prevent the symptoms of depression.

The study gets pretty technical, but here are the key points. During stressful situations, there’s a harmful substance that builds up in the blood. The blood then carries that substance to the brain. Scientists used genetically modified mice to help produce a certain protein. A protein which helps break down and remove the harmful substance in the blood.

Normal mice and the mice with the protein were then exposed to multiple stressful situations. Scientists saw the normal mice begin to express depressive behaviors, while the genetically modified mice acted normally.

So here’s where the rubber hits the road. This same protein can be produced by skeletal muscle (both in mice and humans) through physical activity. The more physical activity you do, the more protein produced. So by doing regular exercise, you build up the amount of protein in your system. When stress strikes, the protein eliminates the harmful substance and shields your brain from symptoms of depression.

16. Improves Your Mood

Exercise causes the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain. This part you know. So I want to share some interesting information you may not be familiar with.

Researchers took a look at how people deal with their bad moods. They identified a total of 32 different methods that people reported using. They then analyzed which methods were most effective at regulating their bad moods. After all the data was analyzed, exercise emerged as the most effective method at changing a bad mood. If you’re curious, the methods coming in second and third were music and social interaction.

17. Improves Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is important if we want to live a happy life. Low self-esteem creates stress, depression, and anxiety. Also, it can negatively impact our job and academic performance.  If gone unchecked it can also cause a number of other unhealthy behaviors.

Exercise has been shown to affect self-esteem positively in all ages. From your development as a child up until the twilight years. A large quantitative review of 113 studies reported finding a change in self-esteem through exercise. In fact, the more physically fit one was, the higher one’s self-esteem. One final result they reported was that the type of exercise program could also affect the level of self-esteem.

So if you’re looking to boost your self-esteem, go hit that pavement, pool, or treadmill.

18. Makes You Happier

Moods come and go. They are temporary by nature. But can exercise have an effect on happiness in the long term?

An important question, but also a difficult one. I thought there would be tons of information on the subject, but it’s surprisingly sparse. There are various definitions of happiness and different ways to measure it. And happiness can mean different things for different people. Despite these problems, there have been some initial attempts to answer the exercise happiness question.

One study looked at data from 15 European countries. They compared people’s physical activity from different categories. Higher levels of activity correlated with higher levels of happiness. Researchers noted that even though there was a link, they couldn’t determine if the physical activity was the cause of the happiness.

In a slightly more convincing study, researchers looked at levels of physical activity in residents of Canada. They first established a baseline happiness for participants. They then analyzed data for changes in activity levels and happiness in the following years.

People who were inactive through the years were twice as likely to become unhappy than those who were active. Those people who were inactive were also more likely to become unhappy than others who became active over the same years. And finally, the researchers noticed people who were active – and became inactive later – increased their odds of becoming unhappy.

Stayed Tuned for Section 3 tomorrow!
This article was written by Eric and is shared from the following website:



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39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise – Part 1

Those who think they have no time for exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness Edward Stanley

Everyone is looking to get an edge in their personal and professional lives. And while most people know that exercise can make you feel good and help keep you sharp, few people realize how deep the benefits really go, especially for the brain.

Not only is exercise the most scientifically proven cognitive enhancer, the brain benefits of exercise can touch almost every aspect of your life. So if you take anything away from this article, it should be this:

Exercise is one of the most important ways to get the most out of your brain. Physically and mentally.

It’s a pillar of great brain health and an important theme you’ll see at The Brain Flux. If you ever needed another reason to start exercising, look no further. The benefits have been broken down into four major categories below. They also include links for more detailed information.

Hopefully, it inspires and serves as a resource for anyone that wants to know how great exercise can be for the mind.


Since there’s a lot of information here, I thought it was easier to search around and navigate by breaking it into four sections.

Many of these studies and the benefits listed below are interrelated. But that doesn’t mean they’re exactly the same.

For example, improving your memory can help you learn and improve academic performance. However, just because you have improved memory, doesn’t mean you’ll apply yourself in the classroom or be more motivated to study.

(Note to my readers: I will share this article, section by section, in my next four posts. There is lots of great information but I think it can be better digested in daily chunks!)

SECTION 1: Cognitive Benefits – Exercise can boost the base level brain functions which lay the foundations of our cognitive abilities.

SECTION 2: Psychological Benefits – Our moods and emotions can be affected through exercise, as well as how we think and behave.

SECTION 3: Neurobiological Benefits – The physical and chemical changes that occur in the brain.

SECTION 4: Lifestyle Benefits – Many other life activities and situations that are affected by exercise.

Cognitive Benefits of Exercise

Cognitive Benefits of Exercise

These are the core brain abilities that people always wish they could enhance. You don’t have to wish anymore, it’s entirely possible with exercise!

Not that it’s easy. There’s no pill that replaces actual effort, so, for now, you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way.

These benefits are backed by study after study. You can think faster, concentrate longer, and remember more simply by exercising. And, generally speaking, people of any age can have these cognitive enhancing benefits. The only question is, how much are you willing to work for it?

1. Exercise Improves Your Executive Functions

Executive functions are your higher level thinking skills. This includes inhibitory control, task switching, attention, and goal management to name a few. These skills are important for problem-solving, planning, organizing, and behavior. It’s how you function as a normal person in society.

A review of exercise in multiple studies found positive effects for all ages in normal healthy participants. Overall, researchers found that exercise is a simple way for healthy people to optimize their higher order brain functions. However, the specific effects for younger populations still need to be clarified.

Even if you’re a little bit older, exercise can improve these important cognitive skills. One meta-analysis – which is a scientific review of multiple studies – reviewed the results of 18 different papers on the subject. All participants in the studies were considered healthy but led sedentary lifestyles. While several cognitive benefits were observed, the strongest benefits for this particular population group was for their executive functions.

2. Exercise Can Increase Your IQ

Most people will tell you that exercising is a smart thing to do. But that’s because it can literally make you smarter.

The topic of IQ is still pretty hotly debated among scientists. Some believe it’s genetic, others that it can be affected by environment. There still seems to be some clarification needed in research. What IQ actually is, what can affect it, and if anything by how much? For now, I’ll let the scientists duke it out.

One of the largest studies ever done tried to shine some light on the subject. Data from over 1 million Swedish men were used and the researchers found something interesting. There was a convincing link between cardiovascular health and performance on IQ tests. Taking it one step further, they also observed that young adults who improved their cardiovascular health between the ages of 15 to 18, also saw an increase in their IQ.

3. Increases Your Focus

In today’s world of flashing cell phones and beeping technology, we all need the skill to ignore distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. It appears that exercise can help us survive in an increasingly connected world. Good news when everyone and everything is trying to grab our attention.

One of the first studies demonstrating this was published in 2004. The study used two different experiments. The first compared physically fit people to those who weren’t. The second study looked at people who were aerobically trained over several months and compared them to others that received no training. The results found benefits in both studies. Physically fit people have increased control over their ability to focus attention as measured by a challenging cognitive task. The people who were trained over several months also saw these benefits.

That’s great news for regular exercisers, but even better news if you’re thinking about becoming a bit more fit.

4. Increases Your Cognitive Flexibility

Focus isn’t the only skill needed for a busy life. Our jobs demand us to take on several responsibilities. School studies are stressful and rigorous. And our personal lives can pull us in 100 directions. We are required to multitask, switching thinking modes, and keep track of several things at once.

Research in 2009 looked at the effects of three different levels of exercise in healthy adults. They wanted to measure if the frequency of aerobic exercise had an effect on a person’s cognitive abilities. At the end of ten weeks, a battery of cognitive tests was given to the participants. Here’s what they found. They saw that the amount of aerobic exercise correlated with increases in mental speed, attention, and cognitive flexibility. Being the thorough scientists, though, they adjusted for variables like gender and education level. The one mental ability that still held statistical significance was that of cognitive flexibility.

5. Gives You More Willpower

Willpower is another life skill closely related to your brain’s executive function. Also, willpower is a key ingredient in a successful life. We use it to avoid temptations, stay on track for personal and professional goals, and adhere to healthy habits.

Exercise is one path that can increase your willpower.

A meta-analysis published in 2013 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at several groups of people. Children, adolescents, and adults up to the age of 35. They found that short bouts of exercise had a significant effect across all age groups in areas of executive function, along with inhibition and interference control – which is better known as willpower.

The subject of willpower gets a decent amount of coverage in the media. But rarely is exercise mentioned as a path to increasing self-control.

6. Helps You Control Your Emotions

Being able to control your emotions might not seem like it’s a cognitive skill. Yes, emotions are a part of our psychological makeup. But the actual ability to control our emotions is a skill of cognitive control. Whenever you reign in an outburst of anger or continue your day despite feelings of sadness, you are exercising emotional regulation.

Scientists wanted to track changes in self-regulation. So they conducted a 2-month long study where participants were exposed to a program of regular physical exercise. The researchers noted a number of positive changes in behavioral patterns. Among these was a decrease in emotional stress and an increase in emotional control.

If you have a tendency to blow up at people or lose your calm, exercise can help you keep centered. Life is going to throw you a curveball or two, and a calm mind can help you navigate turbulent waters.

7. Sharpens Your Short Term Memory

Short-term memory is sometimes called working memory. There are different definitions used in the scientific community, but for general purposes let’s agree they are very similar. Working memory is the information in your head that’s currently being processed. It’s involved in comprehension, interpretation, and manipulation of data.

It’s also had some mixed results in exercise studies. The intensity of workouts and the duration of exercise seem to affect working memory in different ways. However, one study in 2014 had participants complete 30-minute workouts of moderate intensity. At this level of difficulty, researchers found a significant increase in working memory following completion. However, the increased memory capacity was only a short-term effect and exact duration not measured. Any long-term benefits of exercise on short-term memory still need to be determined.

8. Exercise Helps Your Long-Term Memory

There is a strong link between regular exercisers and improved memory. One such review in 2010 found positive and significant improvements among participants who exercised.

One study found that 35 minutes of interval exercise on a bike strengthened long-term memory. The timing of the exercise was important, though. Better memory was found for subjects who exercised four hours after learning. No benefit was seen for those exercising immediately after learning.

Another study split participants up into three groups. Each group was told to recall as much information as possible from two paragraphs. The first group received the information after exercise, the second before exercise, and the last completed no exercise. They found that the group that was exposed to exercise before being given the information performed significantly better at recall than the other two groups.

The effects of resistance exercise on memory was also studied. Subjects were shown photos with different emotional values (neutral, positive, or negative) and then proceeded to exercise using a leg extension machine. After 48 hours, they were asked to recall the photos again. The results found that the group which performed the resistance exercise performed better at recalling, particularly the pictures that were emotionally charged.

9. Makes You Think Faster

Everyone wishes they could arrive at solutions faster. Who wouldn’t want to be faster at solving problems and remembering things?

White matter is responsible for the transmission of data in and around your brain. Having more white matter in the brain means that your connections are better insulated and more efficient at relaying information in and around your brain. So does exercise help with this too?

It turns out that it does. A study published in 2013 found that older adults with a history of aerobic exercise were observed to have better white matter integrity than their sedentary peers. And it’s not just older adults who benefit. It’s also children. A research article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience reported that aerobic fitness levels were linked with stronger white matter integrity.

Finally, in another meta-analysis, researchers found 24 studies that looked at processing speed and exercise. They found that exercise gave people a modest improvement in their cognitive speed. And verifying the results mentioned above, it did this across all ages.

Stayed Tuned for Section 2 tomorrow!
This article was written by Eric and is shared from the following website:



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