Exercise is not only good for your physical health, it’s also vital for your brain health. If you want to keep your brain sharp at any age, regular exercise is the best place to start.
Anxiety, depression, dementia and other disorders related to brain function are on the rise. As we lead more sedentary lifestyles, our brain health suffers. Your brain is no different than other muscles in your body, you either use it or you lose it. While we are no experts in brain science, we can offer some tips to keep you in shape from head to toe.
“Studies have shown that just 20 minutes of exercise per day, improves information processing and memory functions.”
Exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts, ranging from the molecular to behavioural level:
- It increases your heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the release of hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells.
- Exercise stimulates the brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells in range of important cortical areas of the brain. Exercise increased growth factors in the brain, making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.
- From a behavioural perspective, the same antidepressant-like effects associated with “runner’s high” is associated with a drop in stress hormones. A study from Stockholm showed that the antidepressant effect of running was also associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Tips for Choosing The Right Physical Exercise
In general, anything that is good for your heart is great for your brain.
- Aerobic exercise is great for body and brain: not only does it improve brain function, but it also acts as a “first aid kit” on damaged brain cells.
- Exercising in the morning before going to work not only spikes brain activity and prepares you for mental stresses for the rest of the day, but also increases retention of new information, and better reaction to complex situations.
- When looking to change up your workout, look for an activity that incorporates coordination along with cardiovascular exercise, such as a dance class or a good hike.
- If you like going to the gym, do circuit workouts, which spike your heart rate, but also constantly redirect your attention.
Hitting a wall or mentally exhausted? Try rebooting with a few jumping jacks.
Hitting the pavement for a brisk walk or run is a great way to recharge your brain and that runners high!