We often try to separate parts of the body from one another. Not literally, but in our way of thinking about health and fitness. We do exercises for our thighs. We do kidney cleanses. We eat foods to improve heart health. We do more exercises focusing on our abs. This separation is especially true when it comes to the brain.
We like to speak about the brain and the body as distinct things and forget sometimes that what is good for the body is good for the brain and vice versa. Everything is connected. The human body is a web of arteries, veins, nerves, lymphatic tubes, fibers, and tissues. Every cell, no matter how distant from another or different in purpose, is fed by the same blood stream and is ultimately part of one whole.
Multiple studies have linked regular exercise to improved test scores, cognition, focus, memory, and more. The amount of exercise is still under debate, but if you get 10–15 minutes three times a week, you’re already making those neurons fire faster.
ADHD – Exercise helps alleviate ADHD symptoms, especially in children. The brain is still developing well into our twenties and exercise helps it develop properly. It also bleeds off excessive energy while releasing endorphins and neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These calm the brain and help it focus.
Sharpen Thinking – A little cardio sends blood pumping through the system and makes the heart more efficient. This means the brain cells get more oxygen and energy. Both attention and focus improve for several hours after exercise, making that the best time to study or take a test.
Establish Muscle Memory – Even when the exercise has nothing to do with the muscle memory you want to develop, it helps firmly set it in place. Want to be a better golfer, ping pong champion, or soccer star? Running, jumping jacks, or rebounding will help.
Increase Energy – Improved heart function means more energy throughout the body. You will have the endurance to stay focused longer without getting tired. Next time you are feeling run down, try a quick walk rather than a nap or a caffeinated beverage and see how you feel.
New Brain Cells – Exercise releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. This enzyme encourages new brain cell growth in children, adults, and even the elderly.
New Neuron Connections – The same growth factors released by exercise that promote new cells also promote connections between neurons. This equates to more learning and memory power.
Decrease Inflammation – The anti-inflammatory potential of exercise has been studied for years, but it mainly focused on the heart. This effect carries throughout the body, protecting the joints, eyes, and brain from damage too.
Antidepressant – Exercise has been shown to be effective as an antidepressant, especially in conjunction with many prescription medications. It releases endorphins that make you calm and happy, releasing stress and anxiety while improving mood.
Stress – Stress produces hormones that can shrink and kill brain cells over time. Exercise is a common go-to for alleviating stress. It does more than give us an outlet to vent frustrations and let some anxiety go. Exercise actually increases the body’s ability to handle stress, so you can tackle more without it getting to you.
Productivity – Productivity leads to more productivity. Exercise increases work performance, improves time management, and aids in prioritization. Workers who exercise mid-workday get more done throughout the day than those who sit and work without breaking.
Age Related Cognitive Decline – Exercise slows and may even reverse many of the symptoms of cognitive impairment, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s. It helps the body remove plaque and debris from the brain, refreshes cells, and encourages the production of new cells to boost memory and learning in any brain, no matter the age.
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