It is no secret that exercise has long-lasting benefits for the body and those benefits extend to the brain as well. Though you might have heard the brain referred to as the largest muscle in the body, the brian actually isn’t a muscle at all but a complex organ that plays a vital role in nearly everything that happens within our bodies.
How It Works
Whether you are participating in heart-elevating aerobic exercises or slower, controlled movements like those offered through yoga and thai chi, the brain gets a boost during your workout. With increased heart rate comes deeper breathing, which in turn pushes more oxygen into the blood stream and to your brain. This leads to neurogenesis, or the production of neurons, which increases brain volume and many health professionals believe, offers a buffer against dementia. In addition, brain plasticity, improvements in memory and information processing and elevated mood are the result of an increase in proteins in the brain known as neurotrophins, which are little genetic powerhouses that allow cells to grow, differentiate and survive.
Among the amazing benefits that exercise provides the brain are:
• Exercise helps us to sleep better, alleviates anxiety and depression and increases one’s overall quality of life.
• Exercise is a known disease-fighter, lowering risk of heart disease and stroke but also cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
• Cognition also gets a boost from exercise, keeping the brain younger and higher functioning as we age. In fact, it is believed that an effective exercise routine can slow brain aging by around 10 years!
• Some studies have shown that stress can even shrink the brain and exercise, a known stress-reliever has been shown to reverse the damaging effects of stress.
How Much is Enough?
So how much should one exercise to reap the benefits of physical fitness? One research review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that 45 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise had significant positive effects on the brain. The type of exercise that you choose also matters. Rather than choosing one exercise and doing it repeatedly, a multi-phase routine focused on aerobic health, balance and flexibility offers more benefits. So find some exercises that you enjoy, after all, if you do not like doing it, you probably won’t stick with it. Then get moving… your brain will thank you for it!