Exercise is even more important for our brains than we thought. Many discoveries on the benefits of exercise seems to such a common knowledge to most people but if there’s one benefit of exercise that is not given thorough considerations then it would be it’s powerful effects on the human brain. Here’s what this Neuroscientist has to say:
“I started working out regularly when I was about to turn 40, after years of inactivity. As I sweated my way through cardio, weights, and dance classes, I noticed that exercise wasn’t just changing my body. It was also transforming my brain—for the better.
“The immediate effects of exercise on my mood and thought process proved to be a powerful motivational tool. And as a neuroscientist and workout devotee, I’ve come to believe that these neurological benefits could have profound implications for how we live, learn and age as a society.
“Let’s start with one of the most practical immediate benefits of breaking a sweat:
- Exercise Combats Stress: Exercise is a powerful way to combat feelings of stress because it causes immediate increases in levels of key neurotransmitters, including serotonin (a chemical messenger that’s believed to act as a mood stabilizer. It’s said to help produce healthy sleeping patterns), noradrenalin (a hormone. It is given by injection to treat life–threatening drops in blood pressure), dopamine (Low dopamine levels can lead to lack of motivation, fatigue, addictive behavior, mood swings and memory loss) and endorphins(pain and stress fighters), that are often depleted by anxiety and depression. That’s why going for a run or spending 30 minutes on the elliptical can boost our moods immediately—combatting the negative feelings we often associate with chronic stressors we deal with every day.
- Exercise Improves Our Ability To Shift And Focus Attention: Even casual exercisers will recognize this effect. It’s that heightened sense of focus that you feel right after you’ve gotten your blood flowing, whether it be a brisk walk with the dog or a full-on Crossfit workout. These findings suggest that if you have a big presentation or meeting where you need your focus and attention to be at its peak, you should get in a workout ahead of time to maximize those brain functions. But my favorite neuroscience-based motivation for exercise relates to its effects on the hippocampus—a key brain structure that’s critical for long-term memory. We all have two hippocampi: one on the right side of the brain and the other on the left. The hippocampus is unique because it is one of only two brain areas where new brain cells continue to be generated throughout our lives, a process called adult hippocampal neurogenesis.
- Exercise Could Improve The Intellectual Abilities Of Students (Memory Retention): Just consider how the educational system might be altered if we acknowledge exercise’s ability to brighten our mood, decrease stress, and improve our attention span and memory. The growing evidence that exercise improves these key brain functions should encourage schools around the world to increase—not decrease—students’ physical activity. Not only would this help students to better absorb everything from history lessons to chemistry experiments, they’d be a lot happier too.
- Exercise Could Make Students More Imaginative At School And Adults More Creative At Work: Recent findings have suggested that the brain’s hippocampus is also involved in giving people the ability to imagine new situations. Since we know that exercise enhances the birth of new hippocampal brain cells and can improve memory function, this discovery suggests that exercise might be able to improve the imaginative functions of the hippocampus as well.
“It is also worth noting that one of the most profound long-term benefits of exercise on the brain. That is, the longer and more regularly you exercise through your life, the lower your chances are of suffering from cognitive decline and dementia as you age. Part of this effect can be attributed to the build-up in the numbers of healthy young hippocampal cells as you exercise over the years.
“Neuroscience gives us a framework to understand exercise as a tool for better education, increased productivity in the workforce and combating cognitive decline.”