Want to add some brightness to your life? Boost your brain with exercise. Regular workouts over the long term can improve brain health. Single bouts of intense exercise can render immediate feel-good gratification and boost many people’s moods.
Science has confirmed what many avid athletes have always suspected. Exercise is good for both your brain and body. Here’s the nitty-gritty:
Serious Workouts are No Joke – but They Sure Can Make You Smile!
Regular Exercise Affects Brain Size.
Researchers have found that those who commit to exercise experience more clarity in thinking, sharper memory and bust through brain fog. In the long run, cardiovascular exercise that makes you sweat increases the size of the hippocampus. Your hippocampus is associated with learning and memory. When it comes to aging (which all of us are doing every day), a healthier hippocampus might help relieve the stress a lack of clear thinking can pose and lead to more positive emotions.
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Likewise, some studies have noted that regular exercisers also boast a larger prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex area in their brain. Those areas are responsible for thinking and memory. Multiple studies indicate that when you work to increase your physical stamina it strengthens your brain. Exercise increases blood flow throughout your body and allows new brain cells and blood vessels in the brain to develop. In addition, walking for exercise has been shown to stimulate spatial memory.
Over the long term, the bottom line is: sweating + moving your body in space can boost your brain health. A healthy brain can mean you’ll experience less frustration associated with a faulty memory or distracted thoughts. And, if you think about it, it’s reciprocal. A better memory and clearer thinking means it might be easier for you to plan your next workout and remember your fitness routines.
A Single Bout of Exercise Can Give You an Immediate Lift!
The brain benefits of regular exercise are not just long term. There are definite short-term boons too – some direct, some indirect, thanks to neurotransmitters and hormones.
When you give it your all in a workout, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins reduce feelings of pain (like opiates without the side-effects). Endorphins are neurotransmitters that can trigger positive feelings when they hit your opioid receptors. In the short term, the after-effects of intense exercise, though short-lived, can make you feel downright giddy and render clearer thought.
Indirectly, a good workout can help you immediately blow off steam during the day and promote quality sleep at night. This can decrease the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. A build-up of cortisol has been linked to neural changes and brain misfires according to Psychology Today. A reduction in stress hormones can lead to a healthier hippocampus, emotional stability and better-coping skills.
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