Reducing Cognitive Debt Series Part 3 - The Power of Exercise
Welcome to Part 3 of the Reducing Cognitive Debt Series in Honor of BIPOC Mental Health Month! Part 3 explores The Power of Exercise as a tool to reduce Cognitive Debt. Are you new to the term Cognitive Debt? Checkout the introductory Reducing Cognitive Debt Post to learn more.
Exercise is a fun and cost-effective way to improve health and wellness. Exercises to include yoga, dancing, walking and cycling have been proven to alleviate symptoms of mental illness, boost mood and improve cognitive function. In addition to mental health benefits, exercise also impacts physical health by reducing risk for many chronic conditions to include cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Exercise can even help you better manage these conditions.
Exercise is especially important for persons experiencing mental illness as persons with mental illness are at higher risk of developing chronic diseases to include diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and cardiovascular disease (3).
How does exercise reduce cognitive debt?
1.Improves symptoms of depression and anxiety
This is an important benefit of exercise as we know that depression and anxiety can be associated with recurrent negative thinking. Recurrent negative thinking is a risk factor for cognitive debt. Exercise improves symptoms of depression and anxiety by triggering the release of endorphins and activating monoamine neurotransmitters in the brain to include dopamine and serotonin (1). Endorphins, dopamine and serotonin help regulate and boost mood.
2. Reduces Stress
A heightened stress response increases cognitive debt as a heightened stress response consumes a large amount of cognitive resources. Exercise helps reduce the physiological and emotional stress by reducing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline (4). An overabundance of cortisol and adrenaline are associated with anxiety, depression, memory impairment, heart disease and sleep and digestive problems (6). These risk factors demonstrate the importance of reducing stress.
3.Improves cognitive function
Exercise improves cognitive function by promoting cognitive flexibility and boosting working memory performance (2). Memory loss is a potential consequence of cognitive debt. By improving memory, we make our brains more resilient against cognitive debt.
Studies suggest that the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex (parts of the brain involved in thinking and memory) have greater volume in people who exercise, compared to those who do not. Exercise also promotes the development of new brain cells and blood vessels in the brain (5), further promoting our brain’s resilience against cognitive debt.
To continuously reap these benefits of exercise, consistency is key. Exercise and mental health studies recommend at least 15 - 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week.
I became committed to exercise in early adulthood. I engaged in activities like walking (especially once Ginger came into my life!) , yoga, group fitness, weight training, High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) and belly dancing. I took my commitment to exercise to the next level when I decided to take Barre classes. I had tried barre fitness before as part of my group fitness ventures, however, it was the recommendation to take Barre classes to improve my back pain from my orthopedist that sparked a new motivation in me.
I have survived 6 car accidents, 2 of which were total losses. I also have idiopathic scoliosis. Therefore, I was willing to try anything barring surgery or potentially dangerous medications to alleviate back pain. I signed up for Barre classes at MUV Fitness after price shopping at multiple gyms and studios in my area. I liked that the MUV Tribe membership was affordable and provided me with access to a full equipped gym and other group fitness and training programs.
After taking Barre classes at MUV for 6 months, I decided to get certified in Barre Fitness! Since then, I have taught more than 100 studio and virtual barre classes. In honor of this post and BIPOC Mental Health Month, I am sharing one of my Barre workouts with you!
Barre has truly had an amazing impact on my life. It helps me manage stress, anxiety and back pain. It has also allowed me to extend my passion for health and wellness and desire to have a positive impact on others. I hope this post and the workout will have a positive impact on you!
What is your favorite way to exercise? Comment below!
1. Guszkowska M. (2004). [in Polish] [Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood]. Psychiatria polska, 38(4), 611–620.
2. Mandolesi, L., Polverino, A., Montuori, S., Foti, F., Ferraioli, G., Sorrentino, P., & Sorrentino, G. (2018). Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and Wellbeing: Biological and Psychological Benefits. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 509. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00509
3. Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for mental health. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 8(2), 106. https://doi.org/10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a