Exercise And The Brain

exercise and the brainYour physical health and your brain’s performance are very much related. Studies have shown that a good exercise regimen can have very positive effects when it comes to learning and memory. It provides protection from neurodegeneration and can alleviate depression especially in the elderly. Exercise can increase synaptic elasticity or the ability of synapses to strengthen over time. Since memories are represented by vastly interconnected networks of synapses in the brain, synaptic plasticity is one of the important neurochemical foundations of learning and memory. On a lower level exercise increases your heart rate which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the bodily release of a bunch of hormones, which provide nourishment for the growth of brain cells. Running in particular has shown to be a potent cerebral enhancer. Some studies have shown it to have the ability to spark neurogenesis, which is the growth of new brain cells.

A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that regular exercise can benefit the brain’s supply of white matter. White matter is composed of bundles of myelinated nerve cell processes (or axons), which connect various grey matter areas (the locations of nerve cell bodies) of the brain to each other, and carry nerve impulses between neurons. Myelin acts as an insulator, increasing the speed of transmission of all nerve signals. The study, which used 9- and 10-year-olds, found they were more physically fit, had thicker and denser white matter, meaning they had a greater capacity for memory, attention span, and cognitive efficiency.


What Types Of Exercise Helps Best

Usually anything that gets the heart pumping will also benefit the brain. So most aerobic exercises are beneficial like running, swimming or elliptical machines work great. But resistance training can also benefit the brain. Not only through getting the heart pumping but also helping in your coordination in doing the weight lifting movements. Weight training has also shown to lessen the effects of anxiety. In general try to include both cardiovascular types of exercise as well as resistance training to get the full benefit. Studies have shown that you need to exercise at least 30 minutes a day three times a week to see results. In general when you exercise, you look and feel better about yourself, and this helps your overall brain functionality as well.

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