Exercise Physiology for Brain Health

Exercise and brain health

The brain is the most complex and incredible organ in our body! You can imagine that exercise physiologists understand exercise and your BODY, but what about exercise and your BRAIN? It is common knowledge that exercise is the key to maintaining a healthy body, strong muscles, bones and tendons, better lung capacity, better heart health. But what effect does exercise have on your brain health?

The challenge is that we don’t always fully understand the brain. Some parts make sense, some parts don’t yet.

So what do we know?

1. Exercise makes our brains feel good

When we exercise we encourage the production of endorphins (brain chemicals and hormones) that make us feel good. As the human species has evolved, physical activity was necessary for survival. So it makes sense that being active rewards our brains with an incentive to continue doing so. These rewards come in the form of hormones that make us feel happy, help us deal with stress, and reduce anxiety and depression. We often hear about the chemicals serotonin and dopamine in relation to depression, which are crucial to our brains wellbeing.

2. Exercise makes our brains think clearer

There are studies showing a direct connection between exercise and cognition (or, thinking). Part of the suggested reason for this is that exercise increases the blood flow to the brain. More blood means more oxygen, which means better brain performance. Research has also shown increased activity in the area of the brain called the ‘hippocampus’ when we exercise. This part of the brain is known for our memory and ability to learn and retain information. We can see this area grow larger in active individuals as they get older.


3. Exercise prevents brain diseases

Exercise has been show to decrease the risk of Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease significantly. This is increasingly obvious and observable in people who are active early in life. This is because exercise is “neuroprotective” – it stops us ‘wasting away’ and retain function for longer when we are physically active. Ever heard of the phrase ‘use it or lose it’? That said, it’s never too late when it comes to exercise and brain health. Research has shown improvement in cognition in those who already have neurological diseases. Often their function can be improved dramatically, along with their quality of life.

So – there are 3 big reasons why you should start exercises today. The best part about it – it’s free!

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