When we think about starting any exercise regime our main goals are focused and centered around weight loss, healthier heart and lungs, and on body building. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the fact that our brain is very active during exercise and, similar to all our other muscles, benefits us. This includes enhanced neurological activity as well as increased blood flow to the brain.
Exercise stimulates multiple regions of the brain immediately after working out and gives the benefit of improvement and stimulation throughout your life. It stimulates the prefrontal and motor cortex, hypothalamus, hippocampus and the frontal lobe. Blood flow to the brain can increase by a staggering 20% with exercise. As vascular degeneration in the brain is a common cause for dementia and eventual Alzheimer’s disease; the ability to maintain flow of blood in the brain is of critical importance.
Maintenance of brain health and activity is imperative for preventing Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and dementia. Dementia is the loss of mental function in two or more areas such as language, visuals and spatial abilities, memory, thinking and reasoning or judgment. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.
Furthermore, Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most patients. As a matter of fact, within 10 years there is a reduction in the volume of your brain without any increase in the density of neurons; consequently leading to slowness of movement, involuntary shaking or tremors at rest. There is also difficulty with balance and stiffness of the arms, legs or trunk experienced by the patient.
Research shows that exercise strengthens and improves motor circuitry resulting from raised dopamine neuraltransmissions. Increased blood flow during exercise actually helps in the formation of new neurons which can be helpful in preventing the onset of the many types of brain disorders.
Research shows that exercise strengthens and improves motor circuitry resulting from raised dopamine neural transmissions. Increased blood flow during exercise actually helps in the formation of new neurons which can be helpful in preventing the onset of the many types of brain disorders.
Moreover, factors such as depression, anxiety, feeling of constant sadness, fatigue, hopelessness and isolation all affect our brain health. All of these factors culminating together could eventually lead to a distressed mental state. In these modern times these scenarios are tragically snowballing. Exercise essentially is very effective in improving and bettering these conditions and sufferings. From the outset it increases neurotransmitters with the happy hormones, i.e., serotonin and dopamine and also shoots up noradrenaline levels. In addition to the biochemical changes in the brain, a feeling of empowerment and self-confidence can be identified as the anti-depressive effects of exercise. Studies show that just two aerobic exercise sessions per week of 20-30 minutes is enough to dramatically reduce depression and tension levels in both men and women after 12 weeks of physical activity.
The good news is that you don’t need to be a competitive athlete to reap the benefits. Anything which gets you moving will help like yoga, dancing, brisk walk etcetera to reverse the signs of aging in the brain by improving memory, learning and balance. Trying different types of exercises and yoga poses keeps you in a constant learning process which increases the size of the hippocampus in your brain which is responsible for memory formation, spatial navigation and spatial memory. Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (which increases your heart rate) per week.
It is never too late to exercise and work on yourself!
The writer is a yoga teacher and fitness expert.
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