Why Exercise is Good for Your Brain

Posted on January 9, 2019

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The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the Federal Government provides an overview of how much exercise an individual should engage in per week. It emphasizes the benefits of exercise in the prevention of the onset of chronic diseases, including dementia. The latest update of these guidelines includes a section that detailed the relationship between physical activity and brain health, explaining how exercise improves cognition, sleep, depression, anxiety and in general, our quality of life.

Cardio are one of the many exercises that helps to improve our cognitive health. It raises your heart rate and causes you to breath harder and faster resulting in more oxygen pumped into your blood stream. As blood flow to the brain also increases, more oxygen is delivered to the brain as well which leads to the production of neurons known as neurogenesis in certain parts of the brain responsible for memory and thinking. This results in an increase in brain volume, developing a cognitive reserve that helps to buffer against dementia.

Exercise in general also stimulates the production of neurotrophins which are a type of protein that helps neuron survival and function. It increases brain plasticity and the production of neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. These serve to improve memory and learning, and boost information processing and mood respectively.

Other research conducted further details how 35% of dementia risk factors can be attributed to lifestyle choices with exercise accounting for a significant proportion. More specifically, a study conducted by Dr. Zhu from the University of Minnesota reported how individuals who were most active in 1985 were still considered fit decades later and produced better performance on cognitive tests. Exercise was also found to delay the onset of dementia, even for those with a rare genetic mutation that leads to early-onset Alzheimer’s. With just 150 minutes of exerciser per week, it could potentially delay dementia onset by up to 15 years.

Therefore, with all the brain health benefits of exercise, every individual should engage in some form of exercise even for some individuals who appear thin. Exercise is still important for them as it could be a sign that their body carries visceral fats around the organs instead of externally, which is harmful to both physical and brain health. The goal in general is then to maintain a multi-component routine of exercise that encompasses balance, flexibility and aerobic fitness such as tai chi. However, ultimately, any exercise is better for your physical and brain health than none at all so make regular exercising your 2019 resolution today as we work towards better physical and mental well-being.

Category(s):Cognitive Problems Amnesia / Dementia, Dementia

Source material from Psychology Today

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