If you exercise regularly, you’re not only helping your body, but you’re also boosting your brain health. Many clients in Mt. Airy have let me know how their mental tasks were easier once they started an exercise program. All parts of the body benefit from exercising regularly, even ones you might not suspect. There are many reasons this is true and one has to do with stress.
Stress causes the fight-or-flight response.
The fight-or-flight response occurs when your body is under stress. It triggers the creation of hormones that prepare you to run or stay and fight. The hormones make changes in the body, such as increasing heart rate or blood pressure. It slows the blood to the stomach and diverts it to other areas, like the limbs. Those changes remain until the hormones burn off, either by running, fighting, or exercising. The body replaces stress hormones with ones that make you feel good. If left unchecked, the changes can become permanent and cause brain fog and damage to the body.
Exercise helps create new brain receptors.
You’ll have an improved memory when you exercise regularly. Exercise adds new connections in the hypothalamus and other areas of the brain. The hypothalamus controls functions like memory, appetite, and blood pressure. Exercise can also increase serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that sends messages from one part of the body to another. They directly influence the brain, affecting mood and memory. A lack of serotonin can cause forgetfulness and depression.
Exercise increases the brain’s neuroplasticity.
The brain is constantly changing and creating new brain cells. At one time people thought you were born with all the brain cells you’d ever have, but scientists have found it’s not true. Neurogenesis is the creation of new brain cells, which takes place in the cerebellum and hippocampus. Neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire itself, also occurs there, creating new pathways. It means you can learn new things, and that your IQ isn’t static. It’s not affected by age, so cognitive decline isn’t necessarily part of the normal aging process. It’s one reason that exercise could help dementia patients.
- You’ll boost your circulation when you workout. That oxygen and nutrient-laden blood travels to all parts of the body, including the brain. Studies indicate people who exercise have higher-quality white matter and a thicker cerebral cortex.
- When you exercise regularly, you’ll be less likely to have a stroke that damages the brain. Exercise lowers blood pressure, making it both brain and heart healthy.
- Exercise can improve your mood by boosting the amount of norepinephrine and dopamine. Both of these hormones also help you remain alert and help your memory.
- Exercise intensity may play a role. Scientists measured the ability to learn in someone running for forty minutes and resting, and someone engaged in two intense sprints for three minutes with rest between the two. Learning improved 20% more with the sprints.
For more information, contact us today at Urban Athlete