When we think about fitness, we naturally focus on the physical benefits. Decreased fat, increased muscle, improved sports performance, and even improved blood pressure are only a few benefits commonly recognized as the results of a regular fitness program. Are there, however, benefits to physical fitness that go beyond the physical? Could we in fact be exercising, strengthening and improving our brain when we physically exert our body?
Most people realize that regular exercise reduces stress, and many understand that physical activity releases endorphins that improves one’s mood. Studies have even shown that 30 minutes of exercise is as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression or anxiety. There is no question that improving one’s physical appearance can improve one’s self-confidence. Want to add in a little more mojo to your self-esteem? Take your fitness program outside for the additional benefits of fresh air and sunshine!
What many people do not consider is that exercise has also been linked to boosting brain power. A fitness program that challenges your cardiovascular system helps generate new brain cells, increases levels of BDNF (a brain-derived protein) and improves overall brain performance. Getting on a daily sweat will also help those of us starting to develop ‘crs’ disease (can’t remember squat disease). Physical fitness has also been connected to increased productivity, increased creativity and can even control addictive behaviors.
While I have great appreciation for intelligence in general (it does seems to make much of life easier to navigate), I have found an increased respect for being on my mental game in the last 15+ years. Since living on my farm and having daily exposure to the antics of my horses, I can tell you that bringing my A game both physically and mentally makes my time in the saddle more enjoyable. Not only is my barn time just more fun, but mental and physical sharpness is essential to my safety and that of my horses.
So unless you plan spending your time on a rocking horse, invest a little time in daily physical fitness to hone your horse training skills. And here I bet you thought the only purpose for Leg Day was personal humiliation!