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How Exercise Makes You More Resilient to Mental Fatigue

(New York Magazine) Life, as you may have heard, is not always so easy, and so it’s important to practice being comfortable with being uncomfortable. One of the most reliable ways to do that — as Science of Us reported last month — is by pushing yourself physically: People who undertake and endure exercise challenges tend to perform better in hard, yet ostensibly unrelated, areas of their lives, such as quitting smoking or remaining calm during final exams.
The scientific theory underlying this phenomenon is called the “cross-stressor adaptation hypothesis.” In layperson’s terms, exercise — likely due to its unique combination of being hard on the body (this hurts), being hard on the brain (I want to quit but I’ll keep going), and the physiological changes it elicits (e.g., decreased blood pressure) — makes people more resilient not only to physical stress, but also to emotional and cognitive stress. It is for these reasons that scientists have written that “exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults” and that exercise has been called a keystone habit, or an activity that leads to positive changes in other areas of life.
A new study … lends further support to the spillover benefits of exercise.
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