Last Updated on November 19, 2018 by Michael Brockbank
Fitness doesn’t merely help you lose weight or develop muscle mass. Healthy practices also help clarify the mind and keep you sharp. Not everyone considers how an exercise routine and a somewhat healthy diet can affect things like career or emotions. As the saying goes, “Healthy body, healthy mind.”
Ever have days when you just can’t seem to focus or keep your mind on task? The overall health of your body is probably playing a bigger role in this experience than you might think.
Personally, I’m having a rough time this morning simply because I didn’t get enough sleep. Sigh…late-night Minecraft did me in.
Why Being Sharp Matters
I’m not saying that you’ll turn yourself into a genius or Pulitzer Prize winner in science over night. Some people are just more apt at certain mental abilities. However, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to show how exercise and healthy practices improve brain power.
What does this matter? Because you use your brain every second of your life. Everything you do evolves around thinking. It stands to reason how the health of your brain directly impacts the thought process.
Changes in Your Career
A lot of people have careers where the mind is the primary organ used to get work done. Take me, for example. I need to put sentences together in a logical sense to please my clients. Sure, agility in my hands and fingers plays a role in production. But it’s putting the words together and sharing knowledge that provides a paycheck.
Knowledge can take you far in any career. But it’s not just what you know that benefits your job. Being able to troubleshoot and address problems is also commonplace.
Improving how your mind works helps create a well-oil, biological machine. The more efficient your mind becomes, the better you are at your career.
Making Better Decisions
Obviously, the brain is responsible for all of your decisions. Sure, emotions play a role. But where do you think those come from? A clear mind is more apt at calculations, determinations and observations. All of these impact every situation of your life.
The clothes you wear, how you greet loved ones and walking though the isle of a grocery store all rely on split-second decisions. Being mentally sharp helps you identify deals when picking out something to buy. It also helps stop you from making purchases you wouldn’t make otherwise.
Life is a vast series of decisions. And being healthy improves the way your brain puts those decisions in logical order.
Boosting the Memory
Exercise and fitness is linked to improving memory. Does this mean you can memorize “War and Peace” instantly after seven days of walking on a treadmill? No. But it will affect how your brain stores information. It also determines how the brain recalls that same data at a later date.
Memory is used every day for various tasks. Whether it’s learning a new recipe when making dinner or taking a correspondence course at work, the brain is storing information. Even a gamer uses memory to enhance strategies and learn from the game itself.
Memory also contributes to being perceptive. Walking into a room and knowing something is missing, knowing when someone is telling you a lie based on past information and simply understanding a cat who needs to be fed because they way he or she looks at you is all part of being sharp.
Having an agile mind is often paired with faster reflexes. Yes, the physical aspect of dexterity is heavily dependent on muscle and nerves. However, it all starts from the brain.
Studies show how exercise improves the body’s reaction time. While this is measured in tenths of a second, that’s all the time that is necessary to prevent injury, catch a falling baby or steer the car away from a puppy crossing the road.
Your reflex time begins with the brain’s ability to process information. An example of this is the impact alcohol makes on the mind. Your reaction time is greatly reduced as well as impairing your judgement.
Without a clear mind, it’s easy to make mistakes or be too slow to react in crucial situations.
Ridding Yourself of Stress
It’s well-documented that exercise reduces stress. In fact, a lot of psychological therapists prescribe workout routines and physical activity to manage depression, anxiety and anger. This is because of the impact fitness has on the brain.
When you’re working out, especially after a grueling routine, your brain is producing hormones to manage your state of mind. These often act as a natural pain-killer while delivering something like what you would feel on opioids.
The term, “Runner’s High” doesn’t mean they jog in Denver.
Reducing your stress levels will help keep the mind sharp and acute. That’s because you’re not dwelling on issues and the mind is more able to process rational information.
Many of us are reactionary, which tends to cause issues in many aspects of life. Reducing stress improves this mindset.
Health and fitness has potential to vastly improve your self-confidence. And not simply because you think you look better or feel more attractive.
Accomplishment, strength, physically feeling better and improving your mental capacity all feeds into how you seem to yourself. For instance, I geek out any time I break a personal record for exercises. I feel pride in what I have done, and that leads to a continued strive to improve myself.
What does confidence have to do with being sharp? That all depends on the situation. I’ve often found confidence being a contributor to also being quick-witted. If I don’t have faith in my responses or abilities, it affects my interactions.
Someone who has the answer but lacks self-confidence is more likely to stay quiet. The end result is a bad situation with potential to get worse.
Health is More than Body Image
When you think about health and fitness, don’t imagine the swim suit model or magazine cover photo shoot. Think of it more as a way to improve your life whether it’s being mentally sharp or other practical reasons. Being fit doesn’t necessarily mean you can lift your body weight on a bench press.
It’s a way of giving yourself the best chances at many things life throws at you.
UPDATE: Because my mind is cloudy with fatigue from a lack of sleep, I find writing this particular article difficult. I made far more mistakes than normal, which is saying something. It’s just another case of why an acute mind is beneficial.