It cannot be emphasised enough that working out help us not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. It is a well-known fact that exercise stimulates the brain and help release dopamine, which is the happy hormone. That is why you must have heard many times that people went for a run or hit the gym because they were feeling low.
But did you know that this is just the tip of the iceberg? Exercising has numerous benefits for the brain development. Today, let’s explore those.
Why do I need to keep my brain sharp?
The reason to keep the brain sharp and active, is a no brainer. Our everyday activities are affected by our mental health. It is the brain that carries out all the functions in out body – right from waking up, working, studying, socializing, speaking, and even sleeping. Hence, it is THE most important part of your body.
Be it studying for an exam, preparing for a big presentation, memorizing your speech, making everyday decision at work, cooking, driving or simply, carrying out your day-to-day activities stress free, the brain has to be active and you need to be mindful in order to do these activities successfully. A sharper and active brain is more likely to ward off even the diseases like age related memory-loss. Even our mental health is balanced and happier with well-functioning brain.
How does exercise help the brain?
The benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have positive effects on brain function on multiple fronts, ranging from the molecular to behavioural level. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. Aerobic exercise appears to improve a person’s cognitive function and Resistance training can enhance a person’s executive function and memory.
Exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts-
- On a basic level, exercising improves your mind-body coordination. You are more aware of your movements and are mindful of your body. Hence, you become more mindful in general, of your surroundings and other activities as well.
- It keeps the heart healthy.
- It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain, making it more active.
- It stimulates chemical changes in the brain, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells and enhance learning, mood and thinking.
- Exercise improves blood flow to the brain, feeding the growth of new blood vessels and even new brain cells, thanks to the protein BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF triggers the growth of new neurons and helps repair and protect brain cells from degeneration or memory loss. Working out may help produce neurons in a part of the brain that loses them disproportionately as people age. This is majorly beneficial in preventing age related diseases such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s.
- Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) are more developed and active in people who exercise versus people who don’t.
- Behaviourally, it has the same effect as anti-depressants on the brain by encouraging more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
- It improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety.
How much do I need to exercise for my brain?
The answer seems to be just about any kind of exercise that gets you moving, as long as you stay with it, according to an international study published in the journal Neurology Clinical Practice.
Walking, running, weight training, yoga … it’s all good, provided you do it a few times a week for at least 52 hours over the course of six months or so. A key finding in the study was that the exercise doesn’t need to take place within a set number of hours per day or week.
However, consistency is the key to anything. Being consistent week after week, with at least 2-3 days per week will help significantly with your brain health over a period of time. As mentioned earlier in this article, your workout routine needs to be a combination of aerobic exercises as well as strength training for overall brain development.
I hope this is information and motivation enough to get you going and start working out. If there are any questions or if there’s anything you want to discuss, please drop a comment below and I will be more than happy to help you out.
Stay Active. Stay Sharp.