April 03, 2018
A growing body of evidence is showing that exercise not only keeps your body in shape, it also brings a whole host of mental benefits, too. But you don't have to spend hours on the treadmill to get these advantages. Anaerobic exercise, which includes things like weight training, intervals, and sprints, also helps the mind. Here's how.
Many psychologists believe that self-control is like a muscle. If you exercise it by doing things that require a degree of willpower, you boost your self-control. A 2006 study in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that two months of resistance training lead to measurable improvements in self-control. After two months, the participants were smoking less and keeping up with chores that they would ordinarily shirk.
The effects of exercise on mood are well-established, and this applies to anaerobic as well as aerobic training. There are two facets to this fact. Firstly, the endorphin release following exercise brings an immediate mood lift, so if you have a bad day, try hitting the weights rather than turn to a less-healthy coping mechanism like alcohol. Secondly, you'll experience a chronic, lasting boost in mood if you maintain a training routine over time.
A study conducted in Germany put aerobic and anaerobic exercise head-to-head to see which had the most significant impact on mental performance, specifically, the ability to learn new vocabulary. The results were impressive -- not only did the people doing anaerobic exercise (in the form of sprints) learn more words, they did so 20% faster, too.
Many people exercise because they want to feel better about how they look, and research has supported this. However, some people are wary of anaerobic training because they think they will become overly muscular, and they'll end up feeling worse about themselves. But the research does not show this to be true. Many studies have demonstrated improved self-image through resistance training, and that just two workouts per week is enough to see results.
Anaerobic exercise is a vital part of a well-rounded training routine. As well as helping you improve your body composition, strength, and cardiovascular health, it also brings mental benefits. So, if you're not already doing so, add some sprints and weight training to your weekly program. You'll like the results.