But how and why does exercise have such a positive effect on your brain. Here are just five ways you need to ditch those excuses and get moving.
- Exercise increases your heart rate, pumping more oxygen rich blood to the brain, and, thereby improving memory formation in healthy young adults, as well as improving reaction time. Better yet, the physical activity doesn’t have to be gruelling to increase blood flow. Mild activity like a leisurely walk may help to increase blood flow, fend off memory loss and keep skills like vocabulary retrieval strong.
- Exercise can aid the release of several hormones, including growth factors, all of which help to provide a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. This in turn boosts your learning capacity. Research shows exercise increased growth factors in the brain - making it easier for the brain to increase plasticity and grow new neuronal connections.
- Exercise encourages the same antidepressant-like effects associated with "runner's high". Studies have shown the antidepressant effect of running was also associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
- Exercise increases levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, three brain-soothing chemicals which ease tension and stress. Researchers claim this benefit happens within as little as 30 minutes of jumping on that treadmill or biking in the park.
- Exercise not only reduces stress, it may reverse the toll stress takes on the aging process by intervening on a cellular level. After stressed-out study participants exercised an average of 45 minutes a day over a three-day period, their cells showed fewer signs of aging than inactive study participants’ cells.
In a nutshell, working out keeps you younger!
Try to incorporate the following exercises in your routine for a well-rounded fitness program.
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- High-Intensity Interval (Anaerobic) Training - This is when you alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods.
- Strength training - You need enough repetitions to exhaust your muscles. The weight should be heavy enough that this can be done in fewer than 12 repetitions, yet light enough to do a minimum of four repetitions. It is also important NOT to exercise the same muscle groups every day. They need at least two days of rest to recover, repair and rebuild.
- Core exercises - Your body has 29 core muscles mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. They provide the foundation for movement throughout your entire body. Strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability. Exercise programs like pilates and yoga are also great for strengthening your core muscles.
- Stretching - Particularly recommended is “Active Isolated Stretching” where you hold each stretch for only two seconds. This works with your body's natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints.