Exercise for Your Brain

Author: Achieve Wellness Staff

To lead a long healthy life, free of physical disease and pain, most of us are aware of the importance of maintaining a quality exercise and wellness program throughout our lives. However, are you also aware that physical exercise is just as important for our cognitive function and brain health? Recent research has shown that the simple act of moving your body will do more for your brain than any riddle, crossword puzzle, mystery book or even thinking itself.

Modern technology has afforded us the privilege of a sedentary existence; virtually anything we need these days is available without having to exert much effort; this convenience however has come with a significant cost, as chronic illness and diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes have skyrocketed in the last 50 years. I believe we are all aware of this unfortunate trend between the lack of physical activity and the increase of chronic (physical) diseases but its been my experience that we may not be as aware of the link between a sedentary lifestyle and the rise of mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and ALS.

Exercise provides us with important physical and physiological benefits such as improved cardiovascular efficiency, increased bone density, increased metabolic efficiency, increased muscle tissue and decreased body fat – all important for warding off physical pain and disease but it’s also a powerful player when it comes to brain health. The latest science reveals that exercise protects and preserves our brain’s functioning due to three primary benefits: controlling inflammation, increasing the size of the memory center and boosting levels of BDNF – our brain’s growth hormone which helps support the survival of existing neurons and encourages the growth of new neurons and synapses.

In order to reap these brain boosting benefits, research has shown that a balanced exercise program consisting of both strength and aerobic activity which gets our hearts pumping for 20 to 30 minutes a day, five times a week is all that is required. This could also include activities such as walking, cycling, hiking, swimming or shoveling the snow, as long as the activity changes your rate of breathing for 20-30 minutes it would suffice.

I recently came across an interview with David Linden, a professor and expert in neuroscience. When asked if he did certain things to take care of his brain to either strengthen or protect it, Linden responded with this – “if there is a single thing to do for your brain health, it is to do 30 minutes of physical or aerobic exercise a day”. So the next time you are feeling lethargic or your mind is in a fog, try to force yourself to put your walking shoes on, then go outside or hop on the treadmill and walk for 30 minutes – your brain will undoubtedly thank you for it!

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