As we all know exercising is greatly beneficial to the human body. Few, however, acknowledge the specific benefits of exercise on the human brain and focus mostly on aesthetical benefits (ie, big muscles). We won’t deny that good looks and feeling confident in your own body is great. Still, we believe the functioning of your brain will probably take you further than solely an attractive appearance, so we wanted to bring your attention to the positive incidence of exercise on your cerebral health.
As a common rule exercise (especially aerobic) increases the heart rate, which leads to more oxygen being pumped into the brain, which in turn leads to increased release of hormones, notably endorphins that help relieve pain and induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria. Other important brain hormones increases include dopamine, whose release combats depression, as well as serotonin whose secretion produces general well-being and clearer thinking.
These augmented hormone secretions, already favorable to the brain, furthermore create a favorable biochemical environment for the growth of brain cells, and increase the connections between them. This is what we call a virtuous cycle. Indeed, a recent research from UCLA showed that exercise stimulates the brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas. This was confirmed by another study from Stockholm, which showed that the antidepressant effect of running was also associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus, a brain area responsible for learning and memory. Thus, exercising allows you to connect different parts of your brain, and increase exchanges.
If you wish to take this a step further there are types of exercises that augment these positive effects. Choosing a physical activity with additional mental demands forms a golden combination for your brain. Examples are exercises that typically require coordination such as boxing, tennis, or dancing. These have a higher impact on cognitive functioning over pure exercise or mental tasks alone indicating that the best brain health workouts involve those that integrate different parts of the brain, such as coordination, rhythm, and strategy.
Other exercise tips to boost your brain from Brain HQ include:
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.
When looking to change up your work out, look for an activity that incorporates coordination along with cardiovascular exercise, such as a dance class.
If you like crunching time at the gym alone, opt for circuit work-outs, which both quickly spike your heart rate, but also constantly redirect your attention.