How Does Exercise Benefit Your Brain?
In case there weren’t enough reasons to exercise regularly, here’s one more: it’s great for your mind!
Exercise has many positive effects on the brain.
Blood carries oxygen back and forth throughout the body and brain, and the more oxygen your brain gets, the better your brain function!
No wonder people “need to get some fresh air” when they can’t think clearly!
Exercise Decreases Stress and Aging
Stress and aging, truly the two things people are not extremely fond of in life.
It’s important to really understand that working out does not reduce your stress hormones, however, it does reduce the stress receptors in your brain.
Stress receptors are actually the cause of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. Without receptors in the brain, you can’t really get a response to anything.
Exercise reduces the amount of stress receptors in (specifically) your hippocampus in the brain, which results in a decrease of stressful experiences that you may have.
A great example of this is the “runner’s high” you hear often. While you exercise, you release endorphins which actually trigger the “opiate” receptors in your brain that produce that blissful “high” feeling. Usually, this feeling is produced either while you work out or after working out.
Exercise is not a direct solution to stress, but it is an effective way to treat stress.
Recent studies have shown that lifelong exercise has decreased the effects of aging.
Both of our chromosomes have repeated sequences at the very ends of our DNA called telomeres. Telomeres are linked to aging in humans. As we age, our telomeres shorten which is related to something we call senescence - which is the cell’s inability to multiply and divide.
Multiple studies have shown that people who are otherwise healthy and contribute to lifelong exercise, have longer telomeres than those who are incidenced with disease and poor lifestyle habits.
Exercise Is An Antidepressant
Have you ever gone to the doctor hoping he’d give you some magic potion that was going to cure whatever ailment you have (or had), only to have them tell you that ”all you need is diet and exercise”?
There is a reason: exercise is a natural remedy to battle depression or depressed moods.
You hear this all the time, but how does this really work and more importantly, why does it work?
According to Harvard University, exercise can be as effective as antidepressants!
We talked about earlier that stress and depression stem from the hippocampus in the brain.Studies have shown that people who are depressed have a smaller hippocampus than those who do not.
Working out releases growth factors called neurotrophins which basically helps your neurons grow and communicate to each other faster and easier.
The fact that exercise improves your neuronal cell growth, connection, and communication between each other, means you are relieving depression!
Exercising Improves Memory and Learning
Memories are our most prized possession, yet we can only remember a fraction of them.
Though writing memories or sharing them with others can help us access our memories, exercise improves our memory’s capacity and strength.
For example, our memory improves by targeting molecules in our body, such as, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF specializes in increasing cell-to-cell communication between neurons called synapses. The increase in communication between synapses increases our ability to absorb and retain information easier, i.e. absorb and strengthen our long-term memory.
Here’s a great image to summarize what we’ve talked about in today’s blog post.
Hopefully you’ve learned something new today, let us know if we’ve missed anything or have any questions and concerns.
Leave us a comment below right now!