Reuters recently reported that people who are out of shape in midlife could potentially end up with smaller brain function as they age, compared to peers who participate in regular exercise routines. This research suggests a strong link between exercise and brain function that should be a catalyst to get us all moving—both now and into our later years.
So it looks like we have a choice to make. We can sit on our laurels now and worry about fuzzy memories and weak brain function later; OR we can hop up, get active, and likely have the ability to STAY active throughout our golden years, enjoying both healthy bodies and minds. Exercise is our medicine, and it’s up to us to take it.
What’s the Correlation?
Simply stated, your brain works much like every other part of your body—you must exercise it to keep it sharp. Not only is it important to keep your muscles healthy, it’s important to work your brain. But there is a direct correlation between exercise, especially aerobic exercise, and brain function. In fact, even brief bouts of 20 minutes of exercise facilitate information processing and memory function.
How Does Exercise Affect the Brain?
There are many ways exercise helps brain function. The biggest thing you’ll notice physically is that your heart rate increases; this increase pumps more oxygen to your brain. Exercise also helps your body release hormones, and this creates a positive environment for brain cell growth. Additionally, when you exercise, you’re stimulating brain plasticity, which helps to form new connections between brain cells, and exercise even makes it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.
When we exercise, many things happen in our brains to initiate positive growth and memory responses, so it only makes sense that exercise would be something that helps maintain our brain health as we grow older.
Not only does it reduce stress, make our hearts healthier, improve our confidence, help us relax, and boost the body’s natural ability to produce happy chemicals…now it helps our brainpower, too?! What’s not to love?
Numerous studies have been done that link brainpower and exercise. Check some of them out:
“The human brain evolved under conditions of almost constant motion. From this, one might predict that the optimal environment for processing information would include motion.”
“Cardiovascular health is more important than any other single factor in preserving and improving learning and memory.” –Dr. Thomas Crook, Ph.D.
“In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.”
It’s time to realize the power of exercise and understand everything it can do for our bodies. Exercise truly is medicine for our bodies. While many of its effects are visible, some of its very important effects are invisible. Brain health, along with mental outlook and positivity are things that can be influenced by exercise.
Some of us are old enough to remember the days when medicine was really, really gross. It didn’t have the sweet bubble gum or grape flavoring that today’s medicines boast. Nope, instead it was bitter and thick and very tough to swallow. This medicine—EXERCISE—isn’t like that. It’s good; and it’s good for you.
Get some! It’s time to take your medicine.