Everyone knows that we should all be active and get regular exercise to avoid cardiovascular disease and cancers. But did you know that exercise has a profound affect on the brain? So much so that it is more effective than any medication for dementia prevention, early brain wasting, mild depression, and anxiety!
Here are some powerful effects that occur in the brain when we get our heart pumping:
1. It Makes You Happy
Research shows that increasing your heart rate for only a half an hour can instantly decrease depression and anxiety symptoms. Exercises causes chemicals in the brain to be released that make us feel awesome. It has even been observed in mice. Evidence points to a pleasurable and pain-killing firing of the endocannabinoid system (also known as the psychoactive receptor for cannabis). This is why the local Miles For Mental Health Fun Run and Walk is a must to attend.
2. It Makes You Smarter
Exercise causes increased oxygen to the brain. Studies show that only 20 minutes of exercise can have a significant positive effect on concentration. A US study showed that when daily exercise was included throughout a school day, the students became better at multi-tasking, problem solving and processing complex information. Chemicals that help build and repair brain cells are released when performing aerobic exercise. The production of new brain cells (neurogenesis) occurs when a person is tasked with new or complex movements.
3. It Makes You Have a Better Memory
It is not exactly fully understood how exercise helps memory but it is speculated that it is due to brain cell growth occurring in the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. One study showed a 2% increase in total size of the hippocampus in seniors who walked 35 to 45 minutes just 3 times a week! The best time to exercise is around 4 hours after learning. We have all heard the saying "Your brain is like a muscle, use it or loose it" Get out and move!
4. It Decreases Your Odds of Alzheimer's
There has been extensive studies regarding the prevention or slowing down of cognitive impairment related to exercise. Studies show that you can have the worst form of the Alzheimer's gene (APOE4) and if you exercise three times a week it brings your risk of having the disease to the same level as when you have the least aggressive type of gene (APOE1). Exercise also burns up your glucose in the blood and the brain changes to burning fats. This stimulates hormones in the brain that help repair and protect the nerves. Improved circulation also helps nutrition the brain and maintain cell health.
The obvious take away is get active! Regular exercise is essential but also simple activities such as walking, gardening, and housework all helps with brain health. The ideal amount is cardiovascular exercise or strength training a minimum of 20 minutes a session and three days a week.
Activity Fact: Your brain can burn up to 20% of your total calories that you use in a day!