With the summer in full swing, there are endless ways that you can stay active and re-engage your physical health. And, while the physical health benefits of exercise are widely-known, the neurological benefits (the emotional and cognitive impact) that physical activity brings is even more impressive.
In this article, we will discuss your brain on exercise:
- Learn how your brain immediately responds to exercise
- Recognize the long-term neurological & psychological benefits of exercise
- Find out how you can maximize every workout & enjoy it
The Positive "Side Effects" of Exercise:
Research shows that when we exercise, our brains immediately light up with increased neurotransmitter levels. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers of the brain. These neurotransmitters are directly linked to positive increases in mood, energy and focus - with an added decrease in stress and anxiety levels.
You may be familiar with some of them; dopamine (reward and pleasure), serotonin (stress & mood) and adrenaline (energy).
And, because of that, this might be the very reason why most of us “do not regret a workout once we get started”.
When we exercise, our brains are activated in two key areas; the prefrontal cortex (located behind the forehead) and our temporal lobes (located on the sides of the brain – home to the hippocampus).
Unfortunately, these are the two areas that are the most prone to neurological disease (like Alzheimer’s and dementia) during aging.
However, when we exercise, we immediately activate these key areas, stimulating the production of blood flow and the creation of new brain activity (activation of the blood vessels and neurons) to the area. Exercising, literally, builds a new brain with each and every workout and subsequently strengthens and prevents damage to brain cells.
Enjoy the Long-Term Benefits
The long-lasting effects of exercise are quite impressive. Physical activity changes the anatomy, physiology, and function of the brain.
Studies show that regular exercise increases your “healthspan”; meaning the number of years you are healthy before the disease takes over… and this is usually about 10 years.
If you are wondering if regular exercise is really for you, ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in the last 10 years of my life?”
This can mean the difference between being able to play with or even recognize your own grandchildren.
Long-Term Neurological & Psychological benefits of exercise include:
- Cognitive improvement; the ability to enjoy sharp memories, learn new subjects and retain information
- Psychological improvement; the ability to cope with stress, and reduce anxiety & depression
- Neurological preservation; the ability to have a strong, growing brain that can protect you from age-related diseases
- Better Livelihood; the ability to be active, quick and agile; both physically and mentally
Maximize Each Moment & Do What You Love
“Hippocrates” said; walking is a man’s best medicine
When it comes to exercise, many dread the thought and that might just be because they haven’t found a routine that works for them.
Yoga might be excellent for your coworker and pumping weights at the gym may be perfect for your brother, but it doesn’t have to work for you. Finding an activity that you enjoy is key to making physical activity a positive experience for you and will increase the chances of you repeating it again.
If you need some help with recommendations, consider these guidelines from the American Heart Association:
Moderate Activity - Brisk walking, dancing, tennis or swimming
150 Minutes Weekly (30 minutes / 5 days a week)
Vigorous Activity – Jogging, running, aerobics class
75 Minutes Weekly (25 minutes / 3 times a week)
High Intensity – Strength training, power yoga, weight lifting
75 Minutes Weekly x 2 times a week
Message from Dr. Kandel; Remember, you don’t need to become a member of a Pilates studio or a gym to reap the benefits of exercise. This can simply start with scheduling a bi-weekly walk in the park with a friend or taking a stroll on the beach with your spouse. When it comes to brain health and exercise, something is better than nothing. And as I like to tell my patients, there is truth in the old adage, “use it or lose it!”
“To Cure Sometimes, To Heal Often, To Comfort Always”
If you have any questions related to exercise plans or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the Neurology Office for more help.
Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates
“Concierge medicine without the concierge price”