Your brain is no different than the rest of the muscles in your body – you either use it or lose it. The benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have positive effects on brain function ranging from the molecular level to the behavioral level. Exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the body in releasing many hormones which provide a nourishing environment for the growth of new brain cells. Yep! That’s right! Regular exercise can actually increase your brain size.
Research shows that people who regularly participate in aerobic exercises had increased volume in both the white matter of their brains (the neurons) and the grey matter (the interconnections, which act like telephone wires between the neurons). On the flip-side, other research shows that people who don’t exercise at all are three times more likely to develop dementia.
No time for exercise? Here’s how to fit in a workout every day. Simple math is all it takes to schedule exercise time. Cut out an hour of TV at night, then set your alarm to wake up 30 minutes earlier. Presto! You’ve accomplished 2 great things for your body: 30 minutes more sleep and 30 minutes available for morning exercise. Oxygen, not caffeine, is what your brain wants in the morning. (However, if you’re like me and you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, there are some health benefits associated with that. However, that’s a whole other Wellness article, so stay tuned!) Exercise can increase your mental sharpness for up to 10 hours after your workout, a benefit you can really use at the start of your day. Also, most people tend to exercise ‘consistently’ if they do so at the start of their day. So set some morning time aside and do something good for your brain!
A few final words. Exercise can and should be fun and I recommend 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week. Also, physical exercise is not just about running on a treadmill or going for a walk. It can be a dance class, or a new hobby like fencing, mountain biking, volleyball, swimming, jumping rope or martial arts. So have fun, be brain healthy and feel super! Please feel free to contact me for additional ways to fuel your brain.
Carla A. Iafelice, B.S. Foods & Nutrition – Wellness Consultant – Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland