Exercise benefits more than just the body..
Healthy body, healthy mind. As saying's go, it's up there. Of course, it comes with its exceptions, but it’s mostly true.
Exercise brings benefits beyond just physical health; its effects on brain health shouldn’t go unspoken. Improvements in memory & thinking, reduced insulin resistance and reduced inflammation are some of the direct effects felt due to exercise. Indirectly, exercise helps improve our mood & our sleep, which in turn helps reduce stress & anxiety. All that, just by moving.
What's the Best Exercise for Brain Health?
In short, it’s complicated. There’s no clear-cut best type of physical activity to commit to when it comes to improving brain health, and a large part of that comes down to the fact that we are all different. What might be the absolute best form of exercise for one person, may be completely different for another. But, the good thing is that it’s hard to pick a bad choice.
What studies have shown is that there are clear brain health benefits brought about, particularly from aerobic activity, but also from other forms of exercise such as yoga & resistance training.*
One of the defining characteristics of the neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s, is brain atrophy (shrinkage).
Whilst our brains shrink naturally as we age, Alzheimer’s expedites the process greatly, leading to severe cognitive effects. Dementia, an umbrella term that Alzheimers falls under, is now the leading cause of death in the UK, and 1 in 3 people born today will suffer from Dementia in their lifetime.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. In recent years, several studies have shown that regular exercise specifically increases the volumes of your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex**. These are the two areas that are most susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline felt by aging.
Exercise literally helps prevent brain shrinkage, by preserving and producing new brain cells, therefore delaying the effects felt by Alzheimer’s.
To Sum it Up..
How I see it, the evidence is clear, if you want to improve your cognition, mood, energy and generally just look after your brain - exercise. Move.
You don’t have to become a triathlete or do anything too crazy. Find a form of physical activity that works for you; it could be running, resistance training, martial arts. Do it consistently. Oh, and stop taking the elevator instead of the stairs. That's just lazy.
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