Exercise and Brain Health

Exercise and Brain Health



"Exercise is really important to me-it's therapeutic. So, if I'm ever feeling tense or stressed or I'm about to have a meltdown, I'll put on my IPod and head to the gym..." Michelle Obama


Exercise is one of the best strategies for maintaining our brain health and improving our mental health.  Studies have demonstrated that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets our hearts pumping, improves the structure, function and connectivity of our brain. Exercise increases blood flow and thus improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to our brain.  This in turn aids in the release of hormones which nourish brain cells.  Growth factors, that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and the survival of new brain cells are stimulated. Exercise enhances white matter integrity and improves conductivity.  Research has also shown an increase in size and volume of areas of the brain including the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex.  Serotonin, dopamine and endorphins are stimulated.  Exercise also reduces insulin resistance which in turn means better regulation of blood glucose levels.  Additionally, regular exercise reduces cortisol levels and inflammation.  


So What Are the Benefits?


1. Improved ability to think, including enhanced cognitive flexibility, problem solving, decision making, and ability to focus on complex tasks and organize.

2. Improved memory.

3. Increased protection against age related cognitive decline.

4. Improved cognitive control of behaviour.

5. Reduced biological response to acute psychological stress.

6. Increased resilience to stress.

7. Improved energy and reduced fatigue.

8. Improved mood.

9. Reduced symptoms of and protection against depression and anxiety.


Researchers suggest 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, like walking briskly, daily.  If you are not in the habit of exercising regularly, try starting with a few minutes and then increase this by 5-10 minutes until your goal is reached.  


"The reason I exercise is for the quality of life I enjoy". Kenneth H. Cooper


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