We already know that exercise is important to help us maintain a good state of physical health, but recent research indicates it’s also important to our mental health. Studies have found that regular moderate physical activity helps strengthen the brain in terms of protecting memory and helping to stave off cognitive decline. This indicates getting enough physical activity may become more important as we age.
How Exercise Benefits the Brain
As we engage in physical activity, some of the physical changes we go through help the brain to function more efficiently. Particularly, physical activity reduces our resistance to insulin, decreases internal inflammation, and encourages cell growth in the brain. The brain releases neurotransmitters that enhance the health of existing brain cells, grow new cells and allow new blood vessels to form in the brain.
These physical processes help create positive changes in the way our minds function, as well. This is why we’re able to sleep better when we get more physical activity. The process also helps reduce stress and anxiety, so we won’t feel as moody or depressed during the day. Getting sufficient levels of exercise every day can help us maintain a more positive outlook on life, regardless of our age.
Some studies even point to a correlation between exercise and brain growth. Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, says long-term exercise routines help to increase volume in some parts of the brain. He says exercising routinely for six months or more can help increase brain volume, leading to better cognitive functioning. Memory, concentration, and other cognitive skills may be improved through a regiment of regular moderate-intensity exercise.
If this prompts you to start getting more exercise, you should consult your doctor ahead of time. They may offer recommendations that will help you gradually increase your workout times and intensity. In general, walking is an excellent activity, though you can add variety to your routines with other forms of aerobic exercise. Any activity that gets your heart pumping faster will be beneficial.
Typically, the studies allotted for 120 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. However, doctors recommend at least a half hour of exercise every day or a minimum of 150 minutes a week. If that seems like too much, you can gradually work your way up by increasing your workout times by intervals of 10 minutes. The important thing is that you start exercising regularly.