Exercise is fantastic for your mind. Studies show that exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills. Sure, the obvious reasons to exercise would be to lessen the chances of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Or perhaps to lose a bit of weight or lower blood pressure, yet getting physically active helps maintain good mental health.
Exercise affects the brain in many ways. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. Furthermore, exercise stimulates the release of hormones 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. In fact, studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise appeared to sharpen study participants’ memory and certain other mental abilities.
The “runner’s high” is real. Physical activity improves mood and sleep and reduces stress and anxiety. And since lack of sleep and high levels of stress can contribute to cognitive impairment, exercise can offer a two-fold benefit. If running or aerobic exercise isn’t for you, get out and walk. When you go for a walk it’s not just your body that benefits – the way you think and feel changes too! When you exercise, chemicals called endorphins are released in the brain, which have a positive impact on your mood. Active people develop a sense of achievement and purpose. Taking a walk gives you a chance to take time out, think and reflect. As confidence and self-esteem improve, you’re also more inclined to reach out and connect with others.
It’s recommended to do at least 30-45 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least three times a week. You don’t have to do it all at once though. Multiple shorter periods of 10 minutes throughout the day is still good for your physical and mental health.
So remember, what’s good for your heart is generally good for your brain, too!