Exercise is as good for the brain as it is for the body, if not better. In fact it is the single best thing you can do to keep your brain young.
Improving your brain function may not be on your mind today. Like most, you may be taking for granted that it will always be there. It may not be!
You probably know that exercise makes you feel better by reducing muscle tension and improving your cardiovascular health. You may also understand that exercise is essential toward reduction in your stress levels.
But did you realize that the benefits to your brain from regular exercise makes all other improvements secondary?
Just one of those benefits is staving off dementia as you age.
Promising studies have found that exercise reduces your risk for dementia by 60% and cuts your risk for Alzheimer’s in half.
Regular exercise slows cognitive and emotional decline as we age. We are living longer – why not live better?
Improving your fitness will also make you smarter!
In two separate studies at two high schools, a daily fitness program was implemented in the mornings prior to class. This was not a team sports program – this was a cardiovascular fitness program targeting heart rate instead of sitting on a bench waiting to compete in a sport.
Along with a reduction in ADHD, the results in both schools was an increase in reading and comprehension levels, an improvement in ACT college entrance exams plus an increased understanding of mathematics and science. In fact the students in one of these schools finished first in the world on a standardized test in science and sixth in math.
As and extra benefit these students are developing early fitness skills and habits that may stay with them for life.
Starting an exercise program when you are young may be best, but it is never too late to begin.
Research has shown that if you maintain good physical health via regular exercise, you may be able to learn at a faster comprehension rate and function more efficiently, at any age.
Physical therapy including exercise is often prescribed as rehab after surgeries, illness and stroke as well as treatment for many diseases including Alzheimer’s.
It has proven beneficial for those struggling against addictions, battling depression and suffering chronic stress.
The correlations between physical exercise and the brain are undeniable.
The brain is comprised of billions of neurons that communicate with each other via hundreds of chemicals. About 80% of the signaling in the brain is carried out by glutamate and gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA).
Other neurotransmitters in our brains important to our thoughts and emotions include serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
Exercise increases the levels of these chemicals important to our mood, attention, perception, motivation and arousal.
It boosts the flow of blood to the brain spurring the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
BDNF is a brain protein that maintains and protects the infrastructure of the brain, stimulates the formation of new neurons, improves their function, repairs cell damage and strengthens brain cells against death. BDNF is important in memory, planning, decision making, learning and is the link between thought, emotions and movement.
Exercise balances all these crucial fuels in our bodies regulating glucose and insulin as it improves the synapses in our brains.
It also increases our nitric oxide levels helping to widen our blood vessels and boost blood volume to our cells.
Regular aerobic exercise not only calms the body and mind thereby reducing stress and combatting stress related diseases, it also improves the immune system decreasing your risk for all illness.
“Getting older is unavoidable, but falling apart is not.” – John J. Ratey, MD
Exercise strengthens our cardiovascular system.
We think of this as our heart and lungs, which is true. Improvement in the functionality of our heart and lungs reduces our blood pressure which reduces the strain in all our blood vessels including those in the brain. This protects us against future blockages which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Additionally, exercise reduces obesity thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Obesity combined with high blood pressure and high cholesterol increases your risk of developing dementia sixfold.
Change your mind and you will change your path.
Improvements in technology have allowed neuroscientists today to show that if we begin practicing good habits, our brains will literally grow and change in response. The result is that these good habits become easier the longer we perform them.
Every day that you exercise will make it easier to exercise the next day, and the next, and the next…
Conversely each time you engage in a bad habit, you set yourself up to repeat it again in the future. Bad habits die hard.
You can learn to re-program your brain by making the right choices, repeatedly until will power comes naturally and the bad habits are less appealing.
You will replace self-destructive behavior with self-constructive behavior.
Your lifestyle choices today regarding what you eat and whether or not you exercise will absolutely have an impact on how long you will live, and more importantly, on your quality of life as you age.
The choice is yours!
Exercise your body and you will exercise your brain.
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