If you don't care about exercise because you do not care about getting in shape, well guess what? It is important for the brain too. Don't tell me that is not impportant to you!
Exercise has many benefits for our health. We know it is great for our hearts, bodies, strength, and stamina, but did you know that it is also good for the brain? That's right! When you are pushing yourself to workout for your waistline in the gym you are also helping to improve your brain as well.
Many of the benefits of exercise also benefit the brain in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is an important site for cognitive function, learning and memory. New brain cells are also formed in the hippocampus when we exercise; this is how the brain creates new memories.
Exercise brings about synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus. A big growth factor for the neurotrophin family that supports development, growth, maintenance, and survival of the neuronal system is the brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. BDNF may have an important link to learning, memory, energy metabolism, and mood disorders. In short BDNF and the hippocampus are very important for many of our brain functions and can be made stronger by exercise.
Studies have shown that depressed individuals can have a shrunken hippocampus. Exercise can increases the survival rate of newly developed cells within the hippocampus, which studies say may counter the effects of the shrunken hippocampus. This could help reduce depression.
When we workout, the body releases serotonin, which acts like a natural painkiller and gives a euphoric feeling. Serotonin can also work as a sedative, which is why you may feel calm and relaxed after some intense exercise; it may also make you want to take a nap. This serotonin release can help you cope with stress, reduce anxiety, help you have a positive mood, which also means it can help reduce depression.
Exercise increases blood flow to the brain as well as the amount of oxygen in that blood. Because of this some people call exercise “natures Ritalin”. It increases your focus for a couple hours after you exercise, and for this reason it also helps with work productivity. This is the reason that recess is so good for kids in school; it may actually help them focus.
Exercise can also help reduce stroke risk, reduce headache and migraine issues, lower dementia risk and help other mental disorders.
So what kind of exercise should you do? Well, the good news is that any exercise is going to help. Weight training and cardio each have recuperative effects on the cognitive functions of the brain! If you want an extra boost to help the brain then take up an activity that takes a little more effort to learn such as dancing, soccer or sword fighting. They take more work to learn and also take more coordination.
Find an activity you enjoy, this way you will continue to workout. When people take up something they do not necessarily like, just because it is what they should be doing, they tend to lose gusto really fast. Find something you love and remember it is never too late to start. No mater your age you can start to benefit from exercise.