Can Exercise Help Your Brain?

by ProfKeith

I’ve never been a person who spends all my time in a gym but I’m not remotely sedentary.  I’m even more grateful for my active lifestyle with the emergence of recent research that firmly links the benefit of exercise and brain function.

Possessing high levels of homocysteine (an amino acid) has been proven in many prior studies to increase your risk of heart disease and death.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that it damages overall memory and doubles your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

When it comes to preserving brain function, exercise is one of many ways you can actively work to prevent the onset of dementia.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been active!

If you start right now with even low-impact exercise, you’ll see an improvement in cognition that improves your ability to process information, reflexes, and memory.  It also “beefs up” your hippocampus – the region of your brain associated with memory and emotions.

That means taking a 30-minute walk three times a week or engaging in low-impact tai chi can help you right now…today.  You don’t have to do strenuous workouts with weights, equipment, or a trainer.  You can introduce gentle exercise and experience the same benefits – even if you’ve never been active at all.  It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, making this change now will improve your brain.

exercise-and-brain-function-IG

Brain repair depends on the health of your neurons (the building blocks of your brain) and their ability to adapt to new input.  This is known as brain plasticity.

Researchers with Italy’s University of Pisa recently published their data about the benefit of exercise on this essential skill in the medical journal Current Biology.  They focused on an area of the brain known as the visual cortex.  Those who suffer from “lazy” eye (amblyopia) or sustain traumatic brain injury showed improvement in the Italian study.

University team member Claudia Lunghi explains, “Moderate levels of physical activity enhance neuroplasticity in the visual cortex of adult humans.  Our results pave the way to the development of non-invasive therapeutic strategies exploiting the intrinsic brain plasticity in adult subjects.”

When you’re a child and young adult, your neuroplasticity is highest.  Your thought processes and behavior are molded by what you experience.  Nature and nurture play a part in the way you develop mentally and emotionally.

For decades, scientists believed this plasticity declined with age, affecting how we perceive information, the range of our sensory skills, and our adaptability to new ideas and people.

The scientists theorize that exercise benefits brain cognition by lowering levels of a specific neurotransmitter inhibitor identified as GABA.  The less of this negative messenger there is, the more responsive the human brain.  Studies continue but there is no doubt that mild physical exercise created measurable improvement in the brain.

“Our study suggests that physical activity, which is also beneficial for the general health of the patient, could be used to increase the efficiency of the treatment in adult patients,” stated Lunghi.

Other methods to improve brain cognition include…

  • Diet, diet, diet!  Raising your consumption of leafy greens, healthy fats, nuts, seafood, dark chocolate, coffee, and yogurt that are abundant in folic acid, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids are outstanding ways to feed your brain.
  • Never stop learning!  The more active you keep your mind intellectually, the stronger it will be to fight dementia.  Reading, writing, or doing “brain games” are excellent ways to pump up your brain.
  • Lower your stress!  Listening to music, taking a walk, socializing with others, or meditation have been shown to actively reduce your body’s reaction to stress.  Lowering stress lowers inflammation and that’s good for every cell inside you.
  • Sleep more and better!  Sleep is crucial to brain health.  I’ve written several articles on the benefits of sleep and not getting enough raises your risk of dementia, disease, and death.  You need it…it’s when your body repairs itself.
  • Hydrate and then do it some more!  Water is the first (and easiest) step to flushing unwanted toxins from your body.  Drink more to see improvements in your entire body, inside and out.

More than brain cognition, exercise is good for every part of you.

It lowers your risk of obesity, which is a leading factor in almost every major disease or condition.  Exercise (even mild types such as swimming and walking) boosts your emotional state.  It helps you stay positive day to day but is also an excellent way to fight clinical depression.  The release of dopamine during physical activity has also been proven to help you overcome addictions.

You’ll have more energy, better quality sleep, and feel sharper than you’ve ever felt.

It isn’t necessary to spend all your time in the gym but get moving, right now, to improve brain health, physical health, and emotional health.

You may also like:


Comments on this entry are closed.