How You Can Boost Your Brain Health With Physical Exercise
A healthy body requires work. We have to eat right and we have to exercise. But it’s not always that easy. There are those of us who like to spend the weekends in front of the TV or on the computer and not going too far (at least not on our own two legs). Then there are those of us who don’t seem to be able to just sit down and relax! The kind of people who go for a run and go to the gym in the same day! These people were seemingly, as Bruce Springsteen might put it, born to run. And they usually look like they work out too, with massive arms and well-toned bodies! For most of us that’s a dream that we probably won’t get to any time soon. Thankfully, there is a comfortable middle ground between being built like an Olympian and never doing any significant physical activity. But—and this is important—science has shown that exercise is not only beneficial, but necessary for our well-being. In fact, it can actually boost our brain health!
The brain is the control center of the body, so we absolutely need it to stay healthy. It’s a complicated organ and science still doesn’t fully understand everything about it. What we do know is that it has a say in everything our body does, so it’s important to do what we can to keep it healthy. Here, we’re going to look at how we can keep our brains in good condition with different types of exercise.
What Happens to Our Brain Health as We Get Older
The first thing to understand is that our brains are an organ made up of tissues and cells like every other organ in our bodies. As with any organ, aging takes its toll and leads to a decline in performance. Two ways our brain suffers as we age is not being as quick to learn new things and struggling with memory.
This is because as we age, the part of the brain involved in learning and memory, the hippocampus,shrinks in size. The hippocampus is astructure in the temporal lobe, which is the second largest lobe in the brain. Damage to the temporal lobe can lead to difficulties with understanding what is being said, struggling to retain information, difficulties in paying attention, and, in some cases, emotionally inappropriate behavior. While we want to keep the hippocampus healthy and intact, as we have said, it does suffer a natural decline, starting to shrink from as early as your late twenties.
There are other ways the brain’s performancedeclines with age. As well as memory and learning, it can become more difficult to multitask. Our brain is made up of neurons, which send messages, using neurochemicals and electrical signals, to different parts of the brain and throughout the nervous system. As we age, the neurons are not as proficient at communicating with each other.
As well as this, our brain health is affected by our bodily health. As we get older, our blood flow slows down which means less blood is sent to our brains. As we go through more experiences as we age, we will have dealt with more stressful situations, which can impact negatively on the brain too.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to help!
Physical Exercise Helps the Brain
We know physical exercise is a great way to stay in good shape. If we want to burn fat or build muscle, doing something physical is key. Getting active has been shown to help reduce the risks of many ailments such as heart disease and some forms of cancer. On top of all this, physical exercise is good for our brains, and regular physical activity helps boost cognitive health!
We spoke earlier about the hippocampus; well,studies have shown that physical exercise actually helps slow the shrinking of this critical brain region, and can also stop it shrinking or actually help it grow! This means we can slow our decline in learning new things and retaining information, or even reverse it!
Further studies have shown that there are links between physical inactivity and cognitive decline (i.e., your brain health getting worse), which can include things like developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
As if we need more benefits, there is evidence that physical exercise can help with the chemical side of our brains too.Research showsthat exercising aids in the brain’s production of growth factors, which help with the health of brain cells and also lead to the formation of new blood vessels. Further ways exercise benefits us in terms of our cognitive health is by reducing anxiety and stress, improving our emotional well-being, and helping us sleep! By sleeping better and improving our emotional well-being, we are in turn setting ourselves up for further positive effects on our brains!
Simple Ways to Exercise Your Brain
The best way to boost your cognitive health is tostay regularly active. Studies have shown that people who get up early and stay active throughout the day are mentally healthier as they get older. But just what kind of exercises should you do?
One form of exercise that helps is aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercises are those in which you use breathing to control your oxygen intake and include things like walking and jogging. Such exercises are beneficial because they help lower blood pressure and improve your lung function. It is recommended that adults engage in aerobic exercises forat least 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. Moderate aerobic exercise is enough to increase your heart rate which means more blood gets to your brain.
Something to consider when choosing a physical activity for your brain is picking one that involvescoordination, balance, and agility. Exercise that involves resistance, like weight lifting or body weight exercises, is also important.
It is recommended that we get at least 150 minutes a week of exercise at a moderate rate of intensity. This physical exercise is most beneficial if it’s a mixture of aerobic and resistance-based training.
Again, consistency is the most important thing. There is no point having one day a week where you’re active, and then not doing anything for the rest of the week. Planning out your workouts in a workout journal can help you keep track of how you are doing. And, as you notice yourself getting more fit, you can increase the intensity of your workout and benefit your brain even more!
Another way we can work out our brains is throughInnerciseTM. This is a mental technique that can help you overcome physical and mental obstacles. The message behind InnerciseTM is that you are in control of what you focus on, and what you focus on changes your neurochemistry (the chemicals inside your brains).
InnerciseTM is all about being aware that if we focus on the potential negative outcomes, it has a negative impact on the chemicals in our brains. As humans, we have evolved to feel fear when we think there is danger; however, if we focus too much on the fact that something bad could happen, it can actually shut down the motivational sectors of our brains and make us feel worse.
But the good news is that InnerciseTM can help make us feel better! There are some key InnerciseTMexercises that we can use where we focus on the good outcomes instead of the bad. This doesn’t mean ignoring our fears, it just means we’re being more positive and imagining things going the way we want them to. Thinking this way can help improve our emotional well-being and it benefits our neurochemistry!
Fuel Your Workout
In order to sustain a decent level of exercise, we need to be mindful of what we’re putting into your body. If we’re going to be physically active, we need to eat foods that allow us to stay physically active.
Carbohydrates are important for giving us energy. Particularly good are foods like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and potatoes. You want to look for carbohydrates that release energy slowly so you stay energized for a longer period of time.
When we do physical exercise, we are breaking down muscles so they can be built up again, and in order to build muscle, we need protein. You can get protein from meat, eggs, tofu, and beans. As well as protein, we also need creatine. Creatine is a nutrient that sends energy to our muscles and helps them grow. It may be helpful to get supplements for these things that you can make a protein shake out of, as it is easier for our bodies to absorb protein in liquid form.
When our muscles are broken down, our cells release waste known as free radicals. These are toxic and need to be flushed out of our body, and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin A are good for dealing with these waste products.
In addition to all of that, vitamin B—in particular vitamin B12—is crucial for our mental health. Omega 3 oils are also necessary for our brains. Vitamin B can be found in meat and eggs, and Omega 3 oils can be found in fatty fish.
Drinking water is also important. If we’re dehydrated, we won’t get the full benefits of exercise.
Physical exercise is vital for our bodies and brains, and you can keep both active both with aerobic and resistance exercises. You can also use mental exercises like InnerciseTM to stay cognitively sharp! Make sure you fuel your body, too, so you can keep going. Now, get out there and boost your brain!
About The Author
NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.
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