The 12 Gifts of Fitness, Day 7: A Brain Reset

True confession: I’m writing this post when I should be at my swim class. I was super duper massively tired today and gave myself permission to take a little bit of rest…but something tells me I could have just as easily been okay if I’d jumped in the pool and done what I could do. Because one of the gifts of fitness is that the act of exercise—especially a decently challenging aerobic or strength workout, one that leaves you panting (at least some of the time) and sweating (most of the time)—creates a Brain Reset.

Brain Reset: Kind of like that red pen thingie in Men in Black

Vigorous exercise gives us a brain reset. Works every time. (Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Vigorous exercise gives us a brain reset. Works every time. (Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

You know the red pen thingie? That little flashy thing called a Neuralyzer that Will Smith’s character flashes at people when he wants them to forget whatever they just saw? That’s what a good, solid, hard workout does for me, every time.

If I was frustrated before the workout…I’m happy afterwards.

If I was tired before the workout…I’m energized afterwards.

If I was crabby before the workout…I’m oozing positive energy afterwards.

Never once, not once in all of the time that I have made exercise a part of my regular routine, have I ended a workout feeling worse than I did when I started it. (Well, there was that one time in October 2014 when I took a nasty fall while running the day after a massive windstorm and tripped on a fallen branch…but that’s a major exception to the rule.)

What’s the science behind this one? Pretty simple. Vigorous aerobic workouts give the feel-good chemicals in our brains a big ol’ boost: endorphins, neurotransmitters, and endocannobinoids…say that last one five times fast. And check out the Mayo Clinic article that expounds on the value of exercise for alleviating depression symptoms. Even if you’re not “depressed” by clinical standards, all of us have our mental ups and downs. Exercise provides a brain reset, and that’s one of its greatest gifts.

(And yes, there is an actual Wikipedia entry about the Men in Black Neuralyzer. Really. I just had to share that, because it’s awesome.)

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