PERREAULT Magazine MARCH | APRIL 2016 - Page 65

Most of us know that regular physical exercise improves cardiovascular health and decreases the probability of developing heart disease, dementia and even some cancers. But did you know that exercise has the capacity to motivate you for action and enhance your creativity?

I have noticed both effects in my own life. And as a neuroscientist who studies the effects of physical aerobic exercise on the brain, I am working to understand the neurobiology underlying how exercise activates our brains for action.

My interest in this topic grew out of my personal experience. When I turned 40, I started working out regularly after years of inactivity. My wake-up call was realizing that I was the weakest person on a river rafting trip. Immediately after that, I joined a gym, hired a personal trainer and got myself moving.

This regular exercise practice of mine didn’t happen overnight, I built it up gradually over several months. I stuck with the exercise because, even before a single muscle fiber got stronger, I noticed how much a good heart-pounding workout improved my mood. There’s scientific evidence behind my experience – we know that physical exercise works to increase levels of many of the same neurotransmitters that decrease depression, giving me a regular mood boost after every workout.

After a few months I saw how the workouts did make me stronger. When I worked out with weights I could both feel and see improvements in my strength and balance. But even more than the stronger muscles I built, I realize now that one of the most profound changes I experienced was a shift in my mindset.

Mindset is simply defined as a belief that one holds. For example, the mindset I held for a long time before this new experience of regular exercise was that my body was always going to be soft around the edges and there was not much I could do about it. I admit it was not the most scientifically- sound mindset, but it was certainly a strong one for me and I know for many others as well.

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