Exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the bodily release of a plethora of hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells.
Exercise stimulates the brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas of the brain
Tips for Choosing The Right Physical Exercise
In general, anything that is good for your heart is great for your brain.
Aerobic exercise is great for body and brain: not only does it improve brain function, but it also acts as a “first aid kit” on damaged brain cells.
Exercising in the morning before going to work not only spikes brain activity and prepares you for mental stresses for the rest of the day, but also produces increases retention of new information, and better reaction to complex situations.
Regular engagement in physical activities may be protective against cognitive decline and dementia in late life.
As a consequence of rapid population aging, there is a rising prevalence of age-related neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD)
Mid-Life Physical Activity and Associations with Brain Health
Mid-life is commonly defined as the period of adulthood between the ages of 40 and 65 years.
Normal aging in mid-life is associated with a reduction in both structure and function of the brain, indeed it may be that regular engagement in PA during midlife, is important for maintenance of strong brain network connections, enhancement of neuroplasticity and reduction of vascular risk factors.
The Influence of PA on Cognition and Brain Health in Older People
Declines in cognitive function accelerate after age 60, with fluid cognitive processes such as working memory, processing speed and executive function particularly.
By the age of 60, shrinkage of gray matter occurs in the magnitude of 0.5%–1% per year in most brain regions
- Atrophy of both gray and white matter is especially prominent in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus; regions which are important for executive function and memory
- Both aerobic and resistance training have demonstrated cognitive benefits in older people
- The exercise program led to increased levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Findings of increased BDNF associated with the multimodal exercise program suggest that neurogenesis may be part of the mechanism, which underlies cognitive improvements in older people.
Impact of physical activity and Exercise in Neurodegenerative Diseases
Age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer currently affect approximately 3% of the world’s population, equating to 57.5 million people.
To reduce the burden of disease attributable to these disorders, attention should be paid to optimizing early life brain development to promote life-long neuronal enrichment, and maximize neuroplasticity and cognition
Physical activity helps improve many aspects of life
- Exercise Improves Your Executive Functions
Executive functions are your higher level thinking skills. This includes inhibitory control, task switching, attention, and goal management to name a few. These skills are important for problem solving, planning, organizing, and behavior. It’s how you function as a normal person in society.
- Helps You Control Your Emotions
Being able to control your emotions might not seem like it’s a cognitive skill. Yes, emotions are a part of our psychological makeup. But the actual ability to control our emotions is a skill of cognitive control. Whenever you reign in an outburst of anger, or continue your day despite feelings of sadness, you are exercising emotional regulation. If you have a tendency to blow up at people or lose your calm, exercise can help you keep centred.
- Exercise Alleviates Stress. These chemicals are associated with better cognitive functioning, alertness and elevated moods. In addition to dumping feel good chemicals into your head, it also helps purge stress hormones from your body – cortisol and adrenaline
- Reduces Anxiety
- Prevents Depression
- Preventing depression is even more important than fighting it.
- Reduces Fatigue
Some of these energized feelings could be because of the dopamine and serotonin that get released in the brain.exercise actually ramps up the creation of new mitochondria cells in the brain, which can help guard against mental fatigue.