Physical exercise does a lot more than just keeping your body fit, it also helps keep your brain healthy!
Just like the rest of your body's muscles, your brain can be improved from active use and training. In similar ways to growing your muscle cells with exercise routines at your local gym, you can increase the connections in your brain through brain fitness exercises. While you may already understand the correlation between improving your brain health and brain exercises, what you may not know is that physical exercise, especially aerobic workouts, can have some tremendously positive impacts on your brain health. In fact, physical fitness can improve many brain functions from the molecular to behavioural levels. Furthermore, your brain can benefit from as little as 20 minutes of exercise. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, your brain's information processing and memory functions can be facilitated with even brief exercise.
Your brain benefits from physical exercise in many ways such as from the additional oxygen that is pumped to the brain when your heart rate increases and the nourishing environment that is created from the surplus of hormones that are released which help with brain cell growth.
Recent research shows that physical exercise increases brain growth by stimulating the development of new connections between cells throughout the brain's important cortical areas. A study from UCLA revealed that the brain is able to grow new neuronal connections when physical exercise stimulates the brain plasticity.
Moreover, physical exercise has also been linked with an increase of cell growth in the hippocampus (brain area responsible for memory and learning). A recent study from Stockholm demonstrated that the antidepressant-like effects from running were actually responsible for this cell growth. Therefore, physical exercise can significantly impact your brain health as the drop in stress hormones leads to new cell growth.
Mental and Physical Exercise are the Perfect Pair
When you combine physical exercise with brain training, you can substantially increase your cognitive functions within certain parameters such as time and style of exercise. Interestingly, not all physical exercises have the same effect when it comes to enhancing brain functions. For example, choosing to incorporate cycling into your workout routine instead of running has been linked to improvements in brain functions both during and after workout. Another interesting find is that your brain health benefits most from the combination of physical and mental exercise. Studies show that individuals who perform exercises and activities which have both mental and physical demands, such as ballroom dancing, show higher levels of cognitive improvement over exercises with only mental or physical demands. As a result, it is clear that the best way to keep your brain healthy is to integrate exercises into your workout routine that include different parts of the brain such as coordination, strategy, and rhythm.
So, How do You Choose the Right Physical Exercise? Here are Some Tips:
- Generally speaking, anything that is good for your heart is also good for your brain.
- You benefit most from morning workouts which boosts brain activity, prepares you for the day ahead, and improves ability to retain new information as well as reactions to complex situations.
- In addition to being a great exercise for both body and brain, aerobic workouts act as a “first aid kit” to help repair brain cells.
- If you’re looking for a good workout or activity to improve brain physical health then you should look for something that incorporates both mental and physical exercise.
- Jumping jacks can restart your brain if you are feeling mentally drained.
- Circuit workouts at the gym are great because they get your heart rate up quickly and redirect your attention constantly which is better cognitive development.