Most people think of exercise as something we do only for our bodies. However, the truth is that exercise is also about your brain. Thinking back to human evolution, we hunted, foraged, ran, and climbed for our survival which in turn spurred brain growth, and this brain growth is what differentiates us from other animals.
When you exercise, your brain is likely thinking of the activity you are doing and that activity is building the gray matter in your brain in myriad ways. This, in turn, will make you more motivated, happier, and actually improve your ability to learn and remember things.
How Exercise Impacts The Brain
- Coordination And Movement. When we move, our brains are basically learning how to move better the next time. Exercising stimulates the cerebellum, which coordinates all the body’s motor movements from standing upright to riding a bike. During exercise, particularly if the exercise is requiring complex motor movement, we’re also exercising the area of the brain that is involved in all cognitive functions, therefore linking movement to cognition.
- Memory. The part of the brain that reacts strongly to aerobic exercise is called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is at the core of the brain’s learning and memory systems which explains the memory-boosting effects of exercise. The benefits of exercise stem from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, decrease inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors. These are the chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the amount and prosperity of new brain cells.
- Improves Circulation To The Brain. During exercise, the body’s heart rate is increased, which aids in the delivery of more oxygen and glucose to the brain. This delivery stimulates the brain’s synapses found at the junction of muscle and nerve. Simply put, more blood equals more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better.
- Boosts Mood. Exercising can indeed lift your spirits in as little as five minutes, this is great news as even just a short stroll outside can be just what you need to resolve a bout of the blues. Research has shown that regular exercise can also help combat long-term depression and anxiety which is amazing news to those that battle this condition.
- Combats Disease. One of the benefits of exercise on the brain is quite possibly a decreased risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. Just a quick gym session every other day can increase blood flow to your brain, which helps boost brain cell production, and in turn, improve brain health. Routine exercise has also been shown to improve the elderly’s self-esteem, which is important to maintaining good mental health.
- Stress Relief. A brisk walk, a gym session or spin class for 30 minutes can reduce tension by increasing levels of “soothing” brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals in the brain act as natural painkillers and can improve the ability and quality of sleep, and thus reduce stress.
- Improves Learning. Exercise heightens the level of brain chemicals called growth factors, these growth factors help make new brain cells and establish new connections between brain cells to help us learn. Complicated activities, such as tennis or dancing, also improve our capacity to learn by enhancing our attention and concentration skills and can be the biggest boost to our brain.
As we have discussed, the brain is greatly impacted by the movement and activity of our body. Whether you choose to exercise to reduce stress, improve memory or fight disease, it is clear that exercise is crucial to our brain health. So lace up your shoes and get moving!
If you are interested in learning more about health and wellness, I encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our trusted practitioners at SHIN Wellness. We offer many holistic treatments such as Decompression Therapy, Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Neurofeedback, Psychology, Reiki, Nutrition, Corrective Exercises, and Massage. If you need some help figuring out what service is right for you, try our personalized consultation. Our Wellness Center and Chiropractor office in Miami Florida specializes in restoring your health!