Have you ever thought about ways to exercise your brain with physical activity? Well, it’s never too late to start! Many people exercise because they know it is good for their physical health, including preventing diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Not everyone realizes that exercising is not only good for your body, but it is also good for brain function. Did you know, if you continue to keep physically active throughout your life you can lower your risk of developing cognitive diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Many studies have found that regular exercise has a big effect on cognitive decline. Exercise improves neurocognitive function by generating chemicals that support proliferation of the hippocampus (memory storage in the brain). Shrinking of the hippocampus occurs in all people as we age, but with regular exercise, researchers believe this shrinking can be reduced.
Specifically, a study done at the University of British Columbia, found that regular aerobic and cardiovascular exercise that elevate a person’s heart rate such as running, swimming and cycling workouts can increase the size of your hippocampus. Other exercises such as resistance training, and muscle toning did not have the same effect or results on the brain as cardiovascular exercise. Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. Cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. Studies also suggest that a tough workout increases levels of brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning. Exercise has long lasting effects on your brain, anatomy, physiology and function.
All in all, physical activity improves cognitive function, elevates mood and makes us feel great. Exercise also has an anti-inflammatory effect, that’s important since inflammation is a factor in brain aging. Plus, it increases blood flow to the brain lowering the risk of other health problems that affect brain health, including high blood pressure and insulin resistance.
Exercise isn’t just for weight loss or keeping your heart healthy but it is essential for keeping your brain functioning optimally. So keep these things in mind the next time think about skipping a workout!
Wendy Suzuki; Ph.D in Neuroscience (my love affair with the brain)
Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110
How Exercise Beefs up the Brain http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2013/10/how-exercise-beefs-brain
About the author:
Judy Gadbois is the Program Manager at NVIDIA in Santa Clara. Judy has been in the fitness industry for over 20 years, teaching group fitness classes in athletic clubs and corporate sites. Over the years Judy has been managing group fitness which it is her passion building a strong team and also providing our clients/customers with an exceptional experience.