Reading, music, crosswords, learning, art, chess, crafts, thought-provoking movies—there are tonnes of ways to use and challenge your brain. In addition to taking care of your brain from a mental standpoint, however, don’t forget to provide physical nourishment. Your brain loves exercise! Whether you’re walking, lifting weights, running, raking leaves or playing with your kids, as long as you’re moving then your brain is happy. Aside from the fact that exercise can make you feel genuinely happier and relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, so whether you are just going on a daily jog or are working with a personal trainer here are five great reasons your brain loves exercise.
- It feeds your brain
As soon as you begin to exercise, the rate of blood circulation throughout your body increases dramatically. This increased blood flow not only rushes to your working muscles, but to your brain as well and that is exactly what the brain wants. The blood itself is not important, but what it carries is vital—nutrients and oxygen, both of which are essential for maintenance and repair of brain tissues.
- It broadens your horizons
Everybody knows the feeling. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you hang out at your house or work all day long. Sitting at your desk and lounging on your couch won’t go very far when it comes to brain health. Along with all the other benefits of exercise, perhaps one of the most decisive is the mere fact that it often forces you into new situations. These new circumstances, movements and environments are exactly what your brain thrives on. New experiences are what cause your brain to grow and adapt and exercising is a very intense new experience.
- It improves memory
While it’s making your heart and lungs stronger and more efficient, regular aerobic exercise is also improving your ability to remember things. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found aerobic training significantly increases the volume of the hippocampus—the part of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.
A strong memory is also linked with resisting dementia later in life so by exercising you are setting yourself up for a good lifestyle later in life.
- It improves neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity refers to the changes in neural pathways and connections throughout your brain that occur in response to different types of stimuli. A meta-analysis of several studies published in the journal Sports Medicine found exercise increases your brain’s ability to respond and adapt to these stimuli, creating new pathways and mending damaged ones.
Similar effects have been found in people who regularly complete cryptic crosswords, learn new languages and play chess so it is clear from this study that exercise and mental stimulation have a very clear link
- It keeps your brain bigger for longer
With age, tissues of our body naturally begin to dwindle—bones, muscle and brain matter being the big three. Thankfully, we don’t have to sit idly by and let it happen. Strength training is the key to using and keeping your muscles and bones strong, but aerobic exercise is crucial for maintaining brain tissue. The Gerontologist published research that found cardiovascular fitness is associated with the sparing of brain tissue and the enhancement of cognitive functioning in older adults.