How Exercise Strengthens Your Brain

Photo of author


The Importance of Exercise for Brain Health

Growing up in the Netherlands, Henriette van Praag was always an active individual, engaging in sports and cycling to school daily. Her perspective on exercise shifted when she discovered its potential to stimulate the growth of new brain cells in mature mice while working at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the late 1990s. This finding led her to take exercise more seriously, incorporating activities like CrossFit and regular running into her routine as an associate professor of biomedical science at Florida Atlantic University.

While the debate continues on whether exercise can generate new neurons in adult humans, the benefits for the brain are indisputable. Exercise not only enhances mood and cognitive function but also brings about various cellular changes that contribute to overall brain health.

What Are the Specific Benefits of Exercise for the Brain?

Studies have indicated that physical activity can lead to immediate cognitive improvements. Following exercise, individuals tend to perform better on tests related to working memory and executive functions. The increased release of neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and norepinephrine during movement plays a role in enhancing attention and cognitive functions, according to experts.

Consistent exercise over time presents more profound effects on brain health. Research suggests that individuals who engage in regular physical activity exhibit higher cognitive test scores compared to those with a more sedentary lifestyle. Moreover, embarking on a new aerobic exercise program can result in cognitive enhancements after several months, although the degree of improvement varies among individuals.

In addition to cognitive benefits, exercise is known to positively impact mood. Maintaining a routine of physical activity is associated with better mental health outcomes, while structured exercise programs have shown efficacy in treating conditions like depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend guidelines for weekly aerobic activity to promote overall well-being.

How Does Exercise Safeguard Brain Health?

Exercise plays a crucial role in protecting against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. The release of molecules from muscles during exercise, such as irisin, contributes to neuroprotection and cognitive benefits. Improved blood circulation facilitated by exercise promotes the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, enhancing the delivery of signaling molecules crucial for brain function.

Within the brain, exercise triggers the release of chemicals like brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), essential for neuronal health and the formation of neural connections. These connections between neurons promote brain cell recovery and support cognitive functions. Regular physical activity can lead to increased brain volume, particularly in areas like the hippocampus, critical for memory and emotional regulation.

Exercise’s impact on the hippocampus may explain its protective effects against conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and depression, where changes in this brain region are commonly observed. Both aerobic and higher-intensity workouts are beneficial for brain health, with improvements in cardiovascular fitness playing a key role in maximizing cognitive benefits.

While any form of exercise is beneficial, focusing on activities that enhance cardiovascular fitness and incorporating higher intensity workouts may yield greater advantages for brain health. Integrating exercise into daily routines, even in small increments, can significantly contribute to overall cognitive well-being.

Source link


What kind of exercise is best for brain health?

The type of exercise doesn’t seem to matter significantly, but most research highlights the benefits of aerobic exercise. Higher-intensity workouts are believed to offer a more substantial advantage for brain health. Improving cardiovascular fitness levels is also crucial for maximizing the cognitive benefits of exercise.

How does exercise protect against neurodegenerative diseases?

Exercise releases molecules from muscles that travel to the brain, promoting neuroprotection. Factors like irisin facilitate cognitive health benefits. Additionally, enhanced blood circulation and the growth of new blood vessels in the brain support the delivery of crucial signaling molecules. Chemicals like BDNF released in the brain during exercise aid in neuron health and synaptic connections, essential for cognitive functions and brain recovery.

Leave a Comment

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Share to...