On the day of my closest brush with suicide, I forced myself to do something different. Instead of mindlessly browsing the internet or surfing channels on TV to distract myself, I forced myself to hit the gym.
I hadn’t been to the gym for more than six months and was a shadow of my former fit and healthy self. Looking back, I would go so far as to say the gym saved my life. Literally.
The first time I went back to the gym, I just went on the treadmill and ran. It didn’t feel good — I was panting after just a couple of minutes and my legs felt like lead. My brain kept signaling red and telling me to stop and go back home. I didn’t. I ran a total of ten minutes and stopped. I did a few sets of dumbbell workouts and finished as well as I could. My mind was still blurry, but I felt accomplished. I felt like I had regained a little control over my life again.
Since that time, I went back continuously every single day. Slowly, the huffing and puffing became less intense and I started to gain a bit of my old strength. I continued, each time pushing myself a little harder. Soon, I was lifting the weights I used to and started incorporating other bodyweight movements into my routine.
Regaining strength and clarity of mind
As the strength in my muscles improved, so did the clarity of my thoughts. It almost felt like the fog was flushed out of my body together with the intense sweat that followed each session. This was the beginning of my intense passion for learning how to optimize the mind, not only to bulletproof us against adversity but to maximize our mental power to achieve our highest potential.
As Thomas Jefferson said, “A strong body makes a mind strong.” Today’s research in neuroscience strongly backs this up. Once, we believed that our mental capacity, such as our brain size, is fixed after a certain age, cells degrade after forty, and learning ability declines with age.
Thankfully, the most recent studies completely overturn these myths. Recent studies established that exercise stimulates new brain cells, pumps up existing ones, positively changes our mood, reverses aging-related memory loss, sharpens decision making, reduces stress, and so many more.
How does exercise improve your mind?
Some researchers go deep and credit BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein produced in the brain that helps neurons develop and thrive as well as consolidate short-term memories into long-term ones. Exercise elevates this protein significantly while also strengthening our neural networks, leading to improved brain function.
Back then, I didn’t know why but I felt unstoppable after my workout sessions. My brain seems to also get a workout when I perform physical exercise. I was so hooked on learning about exercise that I decided to become a certified fitness trainer under the International Sports Science Association. I read and absorbed as much as I could and started a Facebook page focused on fitness that bloomed with over 200,000 avid followers. My book Fit in Five – Better Health in Just 5 Minutes A Day became a bestseller on this topic.
Exercise became my medication. I exercised daily, sometimes twice a day. I researched new ways to train and went out of the gym to learn a form of calisthenics exercise. It was an activity that seemed to melt all boundaries. It does not matter if you were a billionaire, businessman or a laborer, everyone was working towards a common goal of getting fitter and improving one’s self.
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