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CindySays™...

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Cindy Boggs Cindy Boggs

Cindy Boggs is an American Council on Exercise-certified fitness professional, corporate wellness presenter and author of the award winning book, CindySays ... "You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World." Her website is www.cindysays.com.

Sure, we all want to drop a size or two and have room to breathe in our jeans. Who doesn't want to look great when we run out the door to work each morning? We've heard it a million times that regular exercise helps us lose inches and stay strong. We also know it can make a positive impact on important numbers such as your blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI, hip-to-waist ratio — the list goes on and on.

Did you realize that physical activity can also have a dramatic effect on our mood? It's true. An often-overlooked benefit is how moving our bodies can lower anxiety and provide us with a sense of well-being. Princeton University has recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience information about its study and offers insight as to how being active can make us feel less apprehensive and worried.

Gym rats vs. couch potatoes

The study was conducted with mice separated into two groups. Half had the ability to run at will and half were kept more sedentary. Then they looked closely at their brains. They noted both groups of mice formed additional brain cells called neurons during the course of the study. However, the ones that were moving and grooving formed more neurons that released GABA, a "feel good" neurotransmitter. GABA inhibits brain activity and keeps other neurons from firing, which lowers anxiety. Interestingly, many anti-anxietal prescription drugs are effective because they cause the brain to release GABA.

Of mice and men and women

Then the research team went a step further and presented brief stress to both groups of mice. All showed signs of stress. However, the active mice were able to recover from their stress much more quickly than the inactive mice. Dr. Holly Phillips explained, "These cells help to calm down the brain and hence fight anxiety." The researchers pointed out that while mice are not men and women, they do expect their findings to translate to humans quite well. They feel that physical activity can essentially make permanent changes to the brain because it modifies the types of cells that are present. Dr. Phillips adds, "This is important because then it has lasting effects. Even 24 hours after exercise, you're less prone to experience anxiety symptoms."

Exercise is medicine

Any time you can treat and reduce medical issues in a natural way without medications that may be habit forming or produce unwanted side effects, you are moving in the right direction. Adding 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise four days a week can not only change the way you look, but also change the way you think and feel.