Scientists are continually researching and showing how fitness affects the brain - everything from a runner’s high to yogi’s calmness has deep effects on your brain.
You have probably heard in the past how exercise brings goodness, wholeness, and strength to your body. But did you know that fitness and regular physical activity also have benefits for your brain? The physical benefits are clear and significant, so are the neurological benefits.
In this article, we are going to talk about how fitness affects the brain and view the overall context on the correlation between them, the research behind the same, and the benefits of doing so.
How are fitness and brain health-related?
There are multiple reasons to remain physically active. Major ones include lowering the risk of developing heart diseases, strokes, and diabetes. Regular physical activity also reduces your chances of being obese, optimally maintains your overall blood pressure, reduces the risk of developing depression and anxiety, and helps you look your best.
Apart from all these good reasons to remain physically active, remaining fit also helps reduce the brain fog that comes with age. Exercising regularly helps change the brain in certain ways that help sharpen and protect your brain memory and intellectual skills.
In a research study conducted by the University of British Columbia, the importance of physical activity and fitness came to the surface for improving your brain capabilities. Regular aerobic exercises that help your heart health also boost your brain health by enhancing the hippocampus, a brain area involved in verbal memory and learning capacity. In contrast to regular aerobic exercises, resistance training, balancing and muscle toning, and strengthening exercises did not have the same effects on your brain health.
The research took place at an ideal time, where today, we are looking at one case of dementia every 4 seconds globally. It is estimated that by the time we reach the year 2050, over 115 million people would have dementia around the globe.
How Fitness Affects The Brain?
Regular fitness exercises help sharpen your memory and thinking abilities, both directly and indirectly. Fitness does affect the brain where the benefit comes from various factors such as insulin resistance, reduced inflammation, stimulated growth, and much more.
Because of fitness activities, the chemicals present in your brain can impose a positive effect on the health of your new brain cells. Physical fitness can also help grow new blood vessels in your brain and further help the survival and growth of your newly developed brain cells.
On an indirect basis, exercise also improves your overall mood and sleep quality, which tends to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. Problems in these areas are known to have adverse effects on your cognitive skills.
Studies also show that some parts of your brain that can control thinking and memory, i.e., the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex, have greater volume in people who maintain normal fitness levels against those who do not.
There are overall ten neurological benefits of how fitness affects the brain. They are:
1. Reduced stress levels
2. Lowered social anxiety
3. Enhance emotions processing
4. Prevention of neurological conditions
5. Short-term euphoria
6. Increased body energy, focus, and attention
7. Lowered rate of aging
8. Enhanced memory
8. Improved blood circulation
9. Decreased “brain fog”
Put these research theories to the test. Start exercising. The ultimate way to test this is by walking or jogging. This will also answer the most important question here - how fitness affects the brain?
Well, walking is a type of aerobic exercise that helps get your heart rate pumping. And if it can pump your heart rate, it can yield similar results for your brain too. But, exactly how much exercise is required to improve your memory?
To prove this, participants in a study were asked to walk briskly for one hour, two times a week. This makes up a total of 120 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every single week.
Now, as per the standardized recommendations, half an hour of moderate exercise and physical activity or simply 150 minutes per week is sufficient. If this seems too much for you, you can start by adding a few minutes of exercise to each day, and increasing the total amount of your exercise by 5 minutes or 10 minutes every week, until you reach your goal.
If you do not wish to walk, try moderate-intensity exercises like swimming, stair climbing, tennis, or dancing. Your household chores like floor mopping, raking leaves, and other such activities that let you break out in light sweat can be counted as physical activities as well.
If you think you cannot do it or lack the self-discipline to do it, you can try and join an aerobics workout class with someone you know will boost you to push your limits. You can also start by tracking the progress that encourages you to achieve your goals. Lastly, you can even hire yourself a personal trainer.
Remember, no matter what kind of workout and motivator you choose, commit to establishing exercise as a regular part of your life. It should be like a habit, something like taking your prescription medicines. Well, exercising is medicine, not just for your physical body but also for your soul.
When you are looking for reasons on how fitness affects the brain, delve deeper into all the benefits that are present. Exercising and maintaining good fitness levels do affect the brain in multiple ways. Not only does it increase your heart rate, which helps pump more oxygen into your brain, but it also releases hormones that provide a good environment for the overall growth of your brain cells. Brain plasticity is also stimulated by exercise, along with growing new neural connections.
Maintaining physical fitness offers your body an overall feel-good perspective, the same way as antidepressant-kind effects that come from “runner’s high” since your stress hormones are being dropped.
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