Get Moving for a healthy brain

Your brain is no different than the rest of the muscles in the body- you either use it or lose it! A growing number of research confirms that working your brain as if it were a core muscle, keep it younger and fitter. The benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have positive effects on brain function ranging from a molecular to a behavioral level. Exercise affects brain on multiple fronts. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the bodily release of a number of hormones, all of which aid and provide a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells.

Fights Depression and Anxiety

Exercise plays a profound role in our mental health.  Depression slows the brain’s ability to process information, making it more difficult to concentrate and make decisions, and causes real memory problems. For mild cases of depression, exercise may help to lift your mood. It increases the body’s production of serotonin and dopamine, the brain chemicals that are crucial to happy mood. It boosts the levels of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals.

Reduces Stress levels

Exercise helps our brains balance hormones. This harmonizing of hormones, protects us against toxic stress and and eases anxiety.Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems [ which are all involved with the stress response] to communicate more closely. The cardiovascular system communicates with the renal system, which communicates with the muscular system.

And all of these are controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which must also communicate with each other. This workout of the body’s communication system may be the true value of exercise. In other words; the more sedentary we get, the less efficient our bodies become in responding to stress.

Exercise’s Lasting Effects on Cognition

In 2017, the Lancet released its landmark research commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care that demonstrated that 35% of risk factors for developing dementia can be attributed to modifiable lifestyle traits,a significant component being; exercise. In addition, exercise gives hope to people with a rare genetic mutation that programs them for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Although exercise cannot completely counteract their genetic predisposition, it was found, that people who exercise for at least150 minutes per week, had better cognitive outcomes compared to those who did not. Incredibly, exercise could delay their dementia onset by up to 15 years. 

Increases Sensitivity to Insulin

When you eat, your body turns most of the food into glucose, or blood sugar, which is the main source of fuel for the body, including the brain. In order for the glucose to enter cells, it must be accompanied by the hormone insulin. Unfortunately, in some people, cells become resistant to insulin. The body then has to pump out more and more of it, and still blood sugar levels rise, often resulting in type 2 diabetes. When brain cells are flooded by glucose, it can adversely affect memory and thinking. However, regular exercise can reverse insulin resistance. In fact your insulin sensitivity increases, stabilizing your blood sugar after you eat- for at least 16 hours after a single exercise session.

Which exercises??

It is important to concentrate on the type of exercise you perform in order to maximize your cognitive health. A multi-component routine focused on aerobic, balance, flexibility fitness is better than just one type of exercise. For example, research showed that tai chi exhibited a greater effect on cognitive function than other types of exercise. Walking , running, swimming or cycling are all beneficial forms of exercise. However, any exercise is better for your brain than none at all. Whatever exercise you choose, commit to establishing exercise as a habit. After all, they say that exercise is medicine, and that can go on the top of anyone’s list of reasons to be physically active. Healthy body, healthy mind.

Candice Schmidt
Author: Candice Schmidt