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The Attitude To Exercise That Benefits Mind And Body To Max – PsyBlog

Greatest psychological and neurophysiological benefits seen from Exercise with this attitude.

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Attitude Actually Makes a Difference

These are some astonishing and awesome new findings at the intersection of neuroscience and exercise physiology.

It turns out that your attitude towards exercise is a major determinant of its neurophysiological effect on you, which basically means that it you believe in the positive effects of exercise those effects will be that much more pronounced.  Think about that for a minute - talk about a powerful mind-body connection!  You can actually benefit more from exercise if you believe in its positive effects - wow!

The Mind-Body Connection

In the studies cited in this article, hotel attendants who were encouraged to recognize how much of their job was physical exercise and how that exercise could benefit them actually lost weight compared to others who got no instruction about exercise.

In another study, 76 people worked out for 30 minutes on a stationary bicycle.  Half of them were shown a video about the benefits of cycling and the other half were not.  Just giving them the knowledge and focusing their minds on the benefits of the exercise actually changed the electrical signals in their brains.

This makes your beliefs about exercise a super power- not only can these beliefs be strong motivators but they can actually amplify the effects of exercise.

How Physical Activity Might Quell the Eating Binges After Intense Mental Activity

In all that I've read (here's my favorite article), and written about hunger, I've never heard anyone distinguish "brain hunger" from "muscle hunger".  According to these researchers, that distinction may be real, and what's even cooler is the idea that you can feed your brain with vigorous physical activity.

Exercise Can Feed Your Brain

This first one is my favorite - you can actually feed your brain with exercise.  We're not talking metaphorically here.  The study showed that exercise was like pizza for the brain - you heard me right, pizza!

Students were allowed to eat as much of their favorite pizza as they wanted after Intense Mental Activity and when they exercised first they actually ate less.

The mechanism has to do with blood glucose and lactate levels but the bottom line is that there is actually a difference between brain hunger and muscle hunger and you can suppress brain hunger by working out.  If you're interested in the specifics, here's how it works:

  • The brain nourishes itself on glucose and lactate.
  • The brain has very little in the way of stored nutritional reserves.
  • Intense mental activity quickly consumes the brain's available food, and signals an impending starvation state, producing a hunger signal despite not having consumed many calories.
  • So you eat.

Intense muscle contraction causes blood levels of both glucose and lactate to rise, allowing the brain to obtain nourishment, and partially quelling the hunger signal resulting from intense mental activity.

I don't know about you, but I'm gonna try a brief burst of exercise after a bout of deep thinking to see if it reduces my hunger.   

Exercise Also Creates New Neurons

Exercise not only creates new neurons, it makes those neurons nimble - capable of multitasking.  And, by the way: You'll live longer too.

Neurons with superpowers

I was blown away by an absolutely astonishing finding in this study.  Not only does exercise stimulate the formation of new neurons in the brain, but those neurons have a kind of "superpower" -  they are able to join different neural networks.

In the words of the authors, "...running, unlike learning, had created brain cells that could multitask."

Enhancing cognitive skills

Even though the formation of the new neurons was stimulated by physical activity, they were able to enhance completely unrelated cognitive skills.

Cognitive improvements can be seen in all age groups.  So kids who walk to school do better than bus-riders on tests, and older people can ward off dementia with exercise.

A Bad Diet Can Also Change Your Brain

Now there is new evidence that your diet can also change parts of your brain, making you crave more unhealthy food.

A study from The University of Cambridge revealed cognitive impairment in humans that had been demonstrated previously in rodents an American University study.  The brains of rats who were fed a bad diet underwent changes that impaired their ability to tell when they were full.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Pediatrics found obese children performed more poorly on memory tasks that test that same brain region  compared with kids who weren't overweight.

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