The Brain Boosting Benefits Of Exercise

Exercise Your BrainBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

There are many ways that regular exercise can improve your health.  Exercise strengthens your muscles, keeps your bones strong,  improves mood and sleep patterns and supports immune functions.  If you want to feel better physically and emotionally, increase your stamina and perhaps even prolong your life, exercise is a very good place to begin. 

Did you know that exercise can actually make you happier and smarter?  “Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory and learning,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science Of Exercise And The Brain

As little as ten minutes of exercise daily helps to reverse the negative effects of stress by increasing beneficial brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.  According to a 2010 study by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, exercise may actually work on a cellular level to reverse the toll of stress on the aging process by altering blood flow to the areas of the brain involved in stress relief. 

Exercising three times per week can actually lift your spirits by boosting levels of the brain chemical, GABA, which improves mood and decreases anxiety.  Activity  stimulates the growth of neurons and brain molecules that improve connections between nerve cells creating natural antidepressants. 

Exercise stimulates brain chemicals called growth factors.  Like muscles, the brain must be exercised in order to grow.  Exercise that involves coordination, such as tennis or dance, provides the biggest brain boost.  Challenging the brain by attempting a difficult new movement enhances our attention and concentration skills. 

Any activity, even a leisurely walk, can keep your brain fit and active and reduce memory loss and cognitive decline.  A 2011 study published by the Archive Of Internal Medicine showed that elderly adults, whose activities revolved around cooking, gardening, cleaning and short walks, scored significantly higher on cognitive tests that their sedentary peers. 

It doesn’t take long for exercise to provide a confidence boost to your self esteem and body image.  Even a small change to your body shape, can give you the impetus needed to continue to make regular exercise a part of your daily routine, enhancing your overall health and well being.