Find Out How Exercise Affects Your Brain

Regular physical activity is a great way to enhance cognitive abilities and overall well-being, especially as you age! Get an inside look at the benefits of exercise on the brain.

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So, you’ve made it your 2024 New Year’s resolution to get the heart rate up and get back into shape. You know the effects that cardiovascular activity and other regular exercises can have on your physique. But, did you know that your muscles aren’t the only body parts that get into shape with physical activity? Another enticing benefit of exercise is the impact it has on your brain health. Neuroscience confirms that it leads to improved mental health, memory, and cognitive function. Let’s take a closer look at how exercise affects your brain.

How Exercise Affects Areas of The Brain

They say the brain is the most important organ in our bodies. As we age, our brains undergo a series of cognitive, structural, neuronal, and chemical changes that impact our overall abilities. It’s so important we care for our brain health to remain alert and active.

Exercise is proven to generate new neurons (neurogenesis), improve existing neurons (neuroplasticity), and enhance overall brain function (neurochemistry). Below we break down a few of the critical ways regular exercise impacts our cognition and mental health.

Neurological Benefits of Exercise

As we age, it’s normal and expected for memory, behavior, and general cognitive function to decline. Like other lifestyle choices, exercise (or our lack thereof) can either aid or abet in the aging process. While it cannot directly prevent Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other degenerative disorders, it can delay or significantly reduce the onset of these symptoms that affect our daily living. Physical activity enlarges the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, impacting processing speed, learning ability, and memory function. Those who exercise regularly experience increased energy, concentration, and attention in the short-term and less “brain fog.” In the long-term, exercise leads to the formation of new brain cells and the mending of existing cells through brain plasticity. Older adults especially can benefit from this “fresh slate” that exercise provides.

Psychological Benefits of Exercise

You’ve probably heard the phrase “runner’s high.” This feel-good sensation is the result of increased dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. When paired together, these neurotransmitters create an “overstimulation” of the mind that lasts for a few hours. However, active adults experience many more psychological benefits than just this temporary reprieve. Ongoing exercise is also proven to be an effective long-term treatment for mental illnesses. One recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry examined a group of 33,908 adults. It concluded that just one hour of leisure-time exercise each week was more effective than an antidepressant in protecting against future depression. Those who exercise regularly also see a significant reduction in stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. So, not only are you receiving short-term feelings of improved mood, but you’re also experiencing less stress and social anxiety, contributing to your overall well-being.

Recommended activity levels vary from person-to-person, but a general rule-of-thumb to aim for is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. In doing so, you’ll experience both the immediate and long-lasting effects of exercise regarding your cognitive function, wellness, and so much more.

If you’re wondering how to get in shape and feel better mentally and physically, Supro Direct can help! We understand everyone’s needs are different, so we help create customized dietary programs specific to the individual. Schedule a consultation with us to learn about our weight loss management programs in Greenwood, IN!

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