Exercise: Benefiting Both your Body and Mind

Staying physically fit can benefit your brain too!

Your brain is a complex organ. One new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds, so it’s important to protect your brain function however you can.

There is research emerging daily that indicates exercising your body is actually working out your brain, as well.


Exercise and Your Brain

When you exercise, you breathe harder and your blood pumps faster. This leads to an increase of blood flow throughout your body, including your brain.

When your blood delivers more oxygen to your brain, it leads to neurogenesis — the production of neurons — in certain parts of your brain. Recent research indicates that this exercise-induced neurogenesis could improve memory and cognitive ability. Exercise has also been shown to increase neurotrophins in the brain, which are proteins that help neurons function and survive.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia actually found that aerobic exercise can increase the size of your brain’s hippocampus, which is the area responsible for memory and learning.

In addition to memory and cognition, exercise also helps boost mood through the increased production of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. This can help reduce depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.


Long-Term Effects

In the medical community, there has been an increased focus on preventative medicine. A huge component of prevention for many diseases is employing healthy lifestyle choices. Part of a healthy lifestyle is regular physical activity.

Regular exercise can reduce a person’s risk for physical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity and more. However, recent reports have indicated that exercise can benefit the brain, as well.  


Yes, You DO Need to Exercise

People who are thin may assume they are healthy and don’t need regular exercise. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Even those who don’t appear to be physically overweight can carry excess fat cells around their internal organs, which is harmful to overall health. This is why exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle regardless of body type. Additionally, a healthy diet alone doesn’t provide the cognitive benefits of a regular exercise regimen.

The key is ensuring regular exercise. If you are the type to start off strong and then drop your workout routine when life gets too busy, you’re not alone. To stay active and reap the benefits, I’d recommend a few tactics. Firstly, it can help if you exercise with a friend or join a group fitness class to hold you accountable. Secondly, set a goal for yourself and track your progress. Once you meet that goal, set another! Fitness is never a stagnant process. There is always room to improve physically, which will, in turn, greatly improve your mental capabilities over time.