Build a Better Brain: The Neurological Benefits of Exercise
Author: Shernide Delva
Exercise is great for your figure, but if that’s the only reason you go to the gym, you need to read this article.
Along with the physical benefits of exercise, there is a host of mental benefits. Did you know exercise can boost your cognitive function?
It is true. In fact, scientists have discovered that being fit offers some extreme neurological advantages. Extensive experiments and studies have shown the neurological benefits of exercise involve multiple aspects of both structure and function of the human brain.
Exercising can seem like a chore at times, but it really appears to do wonders for every aspect of our body and mind. Here are some brain benefits from physical activities, and the potential positive impact on cognition, emotion, and aging.
6 Neurological Benefits of Exercise:
Enhanced Cognitive Capabilities
Regular exercise enhances cognitive skills.
A 2003 study conducted a meta-analytic study of eighteen independent reports published between 1966 and 2001. They were convinced by evidence which found that regular exercise does enhance cognitive function. Furthermore, those who regularly exercise saw an increase in cognitive function. This statistic remains constant along different types of exercise, cognitive tasks, and personal characteristics.
Promotes Brain Longevity
Exercise can help improve brain longevity along with brain health. A longitudinal study published in 2016 found that regular exercise helped delay cognitive decline. The study involved 876 patients who were tested with a brain MRI and several thinking tests at baseline, 7 years and 5 years later. When they compared the results, it was discovered that participants with low levels of physical activity saw a greater cognitive decline compared to those who exercised regularly.
The results were controlled for variables of smoking, high blood pressure, and body mass index which also impacts cognitive functioning, and even with these factors considered, the decrease in cognitive function equated to ten years of aging! If that’s not a reason to hop on the treadmill, I don’t know what is!
Stress and Anxiety Management
Life can be a challenge, but exercise makes challenges a lot more manageable. It turns out that increased exercise helps with stress management. It is crucial in a modern society that people learn to cope with excessive stress and anxiety levels. Ineffective stress management can have dire consequences and even lead to a myriad of health implications.
A 2010 study addressed this by conducting a 12-week intervention to measure the effects of the stress of yoga exercises versus walking. The study revealed that yoga helped decrease stress and anxiety levels. While all exercise is great for stress, yoga is an excellent way to lower stress levels and even help with injuries.
Improved Brain Health
In a 2002 study, it was discovered that exercise benefits the brain in various specific ways. Exercise increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which stimulates neurogenesis and promote resistance to brain insult. If that does not make sense, that basically means that regular exercise helps activate cells in the brain and maintain overall brain health.
Through physical activity, the brain receives relevant information from the environment and activates mechanisms to help itself from damage. Exercise strengthens this process and promotes brain health even as we enter our older years.
Smooth Learning and Memory Performance
Multiple scientific studies conclude that exercise help boosts memory and learning performance. However, Berchtold, Castello, and Cotman (2010) took it a step further by examining which of these neurological factors are time-dependent.
The participants in the study all participated in a 3-week running program. The subjects were interviewed at three stages, immediately after the exercise period conclude, after one week and again after two weeks.
They found that participants showed drastic improvements in learning and memory capabilities. Memory functions were most affected immediately after exercise activity and continued to last for the next week or two.
Interestingly, each test period showed drastic improvements in learning and memory capabilities. The results after one week recorded the shortest latency and least number of errors, whilst memory functions were most affected immediately after the exercise activity.
It is important to note that these cognitive capabilities returned to baseline after 3 or 4 weeks, validating the importance of maintaining an exercise routine and continually increasing performance.
Better Mood Regulation
Frequent exercise is great for your mood. It is known to increase happy chemicals in the brain like endorphins. Exercise is moderately more efficient at managing depression compared to other treatment methods. Results from a recent 2013 study found that exercise helps with depression without the adverse side effects of using antidepressants.
We all know exercise is great for our bodies, but also fantastic from my mind. Want to boost your brain? Hit the gym. Exercise is great for recovery as you heal and navigate a sober life. If you are struggling with substance abuse of mental health, and need help, please do not wait. You are not alone. Call now.
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