Brain Boosting Exercise – How Exercise Benefits the Brain

Brain Boosting Exercise Karp Fitness Vancouver

Exercise does the the body good in a variety of ways. It can increase your energy levels; prevent or manage some illnesses and diseases, such as diabetes, depression, stoke, heart disease, arthritis and several types of cancer; control your weight; and promote a better and more restful sleep. But did you know that exercise benefits the brain, as well? In fact, there are many ways to sneak in some great brain boosting exercise!

Exercise benefits the brain directly and indirectly by improving memory and cognition. Its direct benefits come from its ability to reduce inflammation, reduce insulin resistance, and stimulate the release of growth factors, which are chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. Growth factors like brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) stimulate the growth and proliferation of brain cells. This is especially true in the hippocampus, the brain region that is largely responsible for memory and is particularly vulnerable to age-related decline. The more you exercise, the more BDNF you produce.

Indirectly, exercise benefits the brain by improving mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.

How much exercise is required to benefit the brain? Standard recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week. If that seems daunting, start with a few minutes a day, and increase the amount you exercise by five or 10 minutes every week until you reach your goal.

Great options for moderate-intensity exercises include walking, swimming, jogging, cycling, stair climbing, tennis, squash, or dancing. Don’t forget that household activities can count as well, such as vigorous floor mopping, raking leaves, shoveling snow, or anything that gets your heart pumping so much that you break out in a light sweat.

Not sure how to stay motivated on your own? Try any or all of these brain boosting exercise motivators:
  • Work out with a friend who will hold you accountable.
  • Track your progress, which encourages you to reach a goal.
  • If you’re able, hire a fitness trainer. Paying an expert is good motivation, and they can help you set and reach your goals.
  • Join an athletic training facility. You will have access to an abundance of exercise machines, classes, and fitness trainers, which will allow you to try new things and learn from the experts.

Whichever brain boosting exercise you choose, remember that the most successful fitness programs are those that become a part of your everyday activities or lifestyle. Try new activities to keep things fresh and help you stay motivated. And make sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program to make sure it’s right for you