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Wearables, workouts, & mental wellness: The brain-body connection

If you own a fitness tracker or smartwatch, you’re already focused on the physical benefits of exercise. However, there’s another powerful reason to get moving – the incredible impact it has on your brain and overall mental health. As a blog dedicated to wearables technology, we want to explore the fascinating science behind how exercise transforms your brain and helps you manage stress.

New research: The brain-exercise connection

A large-scale study led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated the powerful connection between exercise and stress reduction. The study found that individuals experiencing stress-related conditions such as depression benefited even more from exercise in terms of cardiovascular health.

The large-scale study analyzed data from over 50,000 participants. Over a decade, 13% of participants developed cardiovascular disease. Remarkably, those who met physical activity recommendations had a substantially lower risk, 23% lower to be exact.

Exercise: Your Brain’s natural stress buster

When you engage in physical activity, your body experiences a series of physiological changes. Your heart rate increases, blood flow surges, and your brain releases beneficial chemicals like endorphins.

One of the most profound benefits of exercise is its stress-busting power. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on the brain, disrupting mood and increasing your risk for conditions like anxiety and depression. By regulating stress hormones like cortisol, exercise works as an effective countermeasure, restoring balance and improving your ability to cope.

The MGH study also indicated that exercise increased levels of a brain protein called galanin. It appears to counteract the negative effects of stress.

Beyond these immediate effects, regular exercise goes much deeper – it changes the structure and function of your brain. Exercise supports cognitive function and enhances overall brainpower.

The benefits extend beyond this impacting, for example, your sleep quality. This is another crucial factor in stress management. Chronic stress can lead to sleep disturbances like insomnia, making it harder to cope with stress. Exercise helps break this vicious cycle.

Now that we’ve convinced you to get moving, it’s important to find the right exercise timing. Other research suggests that you should ditch early morning workouts. Late afternoon or early evening might be a better time. But don’t time it too close to bedtime as it might be disruptive to sleep.

Tracking for success

Wearables offer a unique advantage when pursuing better mental health through exercise. They don’t just track your workouts, but also offer metrics like heart rate variability (HRV) – a key indicator of stress and recovery. By analyzing this data, you can optimize your exercise routine for maximum stress-busting benefits.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

The science is clear: exercise is potent medicine for both body and mind. Find an activity you enjoy – brisk walking, running, yoga, or strength training. Start slow and build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Your brain (and your stress levels!) will thank you.

Let us know in the comments how exercise helps manage your stress! What are your go-to workouts for stress relief?

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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