Physical Exercise Shapes Your Brain and Mind
Regular exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system, helps maintain a healthy weight, and strengthens muscles. This contributes to the extension of active life.
By regularly exercising the brain, we increase its cognitive abilities, form new and strengthen old neural connections.
The benefits of exercise:
- Improving brain function and memory;
- Improvement and protection of thought processes;
- Increasing concentration;
- Reducing stress, depression and anxiety;
- Improving the quality of sleep.
Exercise affects the body by changing insulin levels and the production of endorphins. Endorphins have also been shown to promote the production of growth factors. These are natural compounds capable of stimulating growth, proliferation and/or differentiation of living cells (peptides or steroid hormones). Growth factors are signaling molecules that serve to interact between cells. They affect the growth of new brain cells, which is directly related to overall health.
People who exercise regularly have enlarged parts of the brain responsible for memory management and higher nervous activity. A study published in the journal Neurology correlates poor fitness in adulthood with shrinking brain size in old age.
When is the best time to exercise?
Exercising in the morning has a positive effect on circadian rhythms and sleep quality. However, exercising in the evening also has its advantages — you need to warm up less, your body temperature becomes slightly higher than in the morning, evening activity helps to cope with stress better, and endorphins released make it easier to fall asleep.
Ultimately, research says the best time of the day to exercise is the time you can set aside for it on a regular basis. Regular exercise not only has a positive effect on the brain — it helps you stay in shape and lose weight, which is nice.
How often should you exercise?
Ideal regular physical activity is three to five sessions per week lasting from 30 to 60 minutes. But it's best to not overdo it. Exceeding exercise parameters can affect enthusiasm and well-being the same way as those who do not exercise regularly.
The U.S. Department of Health's federal agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as vigorous walking) per week (and no more than 300).
How is exercise related to brain activity?
Improving brain function and memory
Exercise stimulates the circulatory and lymphatic systems, which are responsible for nourishing the body's cells and getting rid of waste material. Exercise increases your heart rate, and as a result, more oxygen gets to your brain. Physical activity stimulates the production of growth hormones that help create new brain cells.
Improving and protecting thought processes
Regular exercise is good for adults and the elderly. The aging process, coupled with oxidative stress and inflammatory processes, lead to changes in the brain structure that impair cognitive abilities. Exercise reduces the risk of cognitive dysfunction, particularly dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Morning exercises help to increase the ability to concentrate during the day. Just 20 minutes of yoga in the morning will greatly increase the speed and accuracy of memory tests. A 15-minute exercise on a stationary bike leads to better cognitive function and memory for all ages.
Reducing stress, depression and anxiety
They affect the process of thinking and memory indirectly — improving overall mood, reducing the effects of stress, depression and anxiety.
Problems from chronic stress:
- Increased risk of psychological illness.
- Changing the structure of the brain.
- Decreased brain size.
- Death of nerve cells.
- Memory degradation.
Exercise makes your brain more sensitive to serotonin. It is one of the main neurotransmitters and is often referred to as the “feel good hormone” and the “happiness hormone”. Deficiency or inhibition of serotonergic transmission is one of the factors in the formation of depressive states, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and severe migraine.
Also, exercise can increase the level of endorphins in the body. These chemicals are similar in their mode of action to opiates. They are naturally produced in the neurons of the brain and have the ability to reduce pain and positively affect the emotional state.
Better sleep quality
Evening physical activity raises the body temperature, which relaxes the mind. 150 minutes of moderate-to-high-impact vigorous exercise per week improves sleep quality by up to 65%.
Sleep quality is improved by both aerobic and strength training. They are especially useful for the elderly, among whom sleep disorders are more common.
It follows from all this that even moderate exercise will be enough to improve cognitive abilities, both direct and indirect. In this case, you do not need to perform any complex exercises or access specialized equipment.
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