The Brain Benefits of Regular Exercise

Exercise isn’t just good for your muscles and your heart, it’s been found to be good for your brain too! So flex that big muscle in your noggin with regular exercise! Here are the brain benefits to getting your sweat on.

How Exercise Impacts the Brain

So many ways! Exercise has been found to help reduce your brain’s sensitivity to stress, depression and anxiety. It may also help prevent and treat degenerative brain conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and brain aging by increasing levels of something called brain-derived neurotrophic factor which can help maintain and regenerate adult nerve cells. Not to mention, it can improve learning and mental performance.

Exercise also encourages your pituitary gland to release endorphins and also increase the activity in the temporal lobe, which helps in storing sensory memories.

The Science Behind It

In one study, physically active women over 65 were less like to develop a mental deterioration if they exercised on a regular basis. In another study, 30 minutes of running for undergraduates brought about faster reaction times and vocabulary learning.

A one year study was done in which they tested the link between aerobic training and increases in connectivity in the temporal lobe. It was found that walkers improved their brain connectivity up to the level of young, college-age adults. All that just from walking! Exercise is almost like a fountain of youth for your brain.

Longer studies have been done to show the mental benefits of exercise too. There was a 25 year study that found higher cardiovascular fitness was associated with better verbal memory and reaction times.

If you find that you have trouble filtering inappropriate responses during a conversation, you may want to try some resistance training. A study found that twice weekly resistance training had a positive impact on verbal responses.

Psychiatric disorders have also been found to be positively impacted by yoga or walking for one hour three times a week. It was found to raise neurotransmitters in the brain that promote relaxation and helps to induce sleep.

Brain Benefits for Kids

Adults aren’t the only ones that benefit from exercise mentally. Studies suggest that physical activity in children is important in their brain development. Any form of physical activity in school aged children may help to increase their IQ and academic achievement.

In fact, just 10 minutes of exercise was found to increase concentration and attention in 13-16 year olds and even may help to reduce symptoms in children with ADHD.

A healthy weight and strength are always important benefits of exercise but next time you need a boost to get to the gym, do it for your brain!

Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Julien Belli

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