Everyone knows that exercise is good for the overall physical health. But exercise is also good for the mental health. For the past few decades, scientists have carried out numerous studies on how exactly exercise boosts brain function. We carried out an extensive research and rounded up four tested and scientifically proven ways exercising can help your brain.
1. Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can greatly interfere with enjoyment of life. According to American Psychological Association, one in seven adults report physical and emotional symptoms associated with stress. Fortunately, you can reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety through exercise.
Exercise reduces stress in two distinct ways. First, it reverses the damage caused to the brain during stressful events by lowering the levels of circulating cortisol, a hormone that rises when we experience stress. Second, it enhances the production of hormones that are associated with
improved cognitive function and elevated moods.
There are several exercises you can do when you are stressed. You can do high-energy exercises such as dancing, running and roller skating. You can lift weights, swim and do Tai Chi. For effective results, combine these exercises with activities that take your mind off the stressful situation.
These include some reading, listening to music or watching TV.
2. Slows Down Cognitive Decline
Mental decline is a common condition among the older generation. Symptoms of mental decline may include trouble remembering names, poor coordination and balance, lack of concentration and increased irritability. More than 16 million people in the US have symptoms associated with cognitive mental decline.
Exercise can actually slow the rate of mental decline by up to 10 years. Exercising, especially between the age of 20 and 50, enhances the production of chemicals that prevent the degeneration of the hippocampus, a component of the brain that plays a key role in memory and learning.
Simple exercises such as walking in a park or riding a bicycle can make a big difference. Weight- training and endurance exercises can also bring positive results. These exercises should be done on a regular basis for optimum outcome. We recommend at least 20 to 30 minutes of continuous exercise three to four times a week.
3. Eliminate Depression
Depression is a common yet serious mental condition. It interferes with how a person thinks, feels and acts. One may feel very sad, lose interest or pleasure in activities he normally enjoys or feel guilty and unworthy. Some people may experience changes in appetite, develop thoughts of death and suicide or increase purposeless physical activities such as slowed speech, hand-wringing and fast movements.
When you are experiencing these symptoms, exercising is often the last thing on your mind. But once you get the motivation, exercise can change things for the better. Regular exercise helps in the production of feel-good chemicals that will change how you feel. These chemicals include
endorphins, neurotransmitters and endocannabinoids. Exercise reduces the chemicals within the immune system that are known to worsen the symptoms of depression. It also increases the heart rate and body temperature, which are known to have calming effects.
Apart from enhancing moods and reducing unwanted chemicals in the immune system, achieving exercising goals and overcoming challenges will boost your self-confidence and change how you feel about yourself. It will also take your mind off worries and help you cope with depression in a healthy way.
Not all exercises will yield the best results. We recommend yoga, running, hiking, dancing, strength-training and Tai Chi. Yoga is known for creating a calming effect. Strength-training will boost your self-esteem, make you feel better and improve the quality of your sleep. Dancing will help you express yourself physically and share with others your feelings. Running and hiking will trigger the production of endorphins, natural feel-good chemicals that make you a happy person.
4. Better Thinking
Most people report that they tend to think more clearly after exercising. This is not far from the truth. According to scientists, when you exercise, your blood pressure and blood flow increase throughout your body. Due to the increased blood flow, your brain will get more oxygen and more
energy, improving its function and effectiveness in the process. Not to mention, the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is responsible for thinking, learning and memory, will get highly active during exercise.
Exercising can also improve your thinking skills indirectly by enhancing your moods and quality of sleep. It also reduces chronic stress and anxiety, which are known to cause or contribute to cognitive impairment. You can do almost any exercise to improve your thinking skills. But aerobic exercise can yield better results. We recommend intensive aerobic exercises for one hour at least three times a week and light exercises at least five times. Stay with your exercise routine for about 12 weeks for
Exercising on a regular basis is something you don’t want to ignore as a person who values himself. When you exercise, you not only prevent physical diseases, but you also create a conducive environment for a healthy brain.