We tend to hit the gym or go for a jog to build muscle mass or promote our cardio health
, but exercise has benefits that can go beyond benefiting just the muscles. Scientists have been seeking to illuminate the ways in which exercise can promote better brain function for around a decade or more, and they’ve found quite a few that shouldn’t be ignored. Whether you’re in incredible shape or you’re a stranger to fitness, here are some of the perks your brain gets when you move your body
Produce Happy Hormones
Do you ever feel extra down on a day when you’ve just been laying around? Sometimes it’s hard to see the bigger picture and it’s easy to chalk that up to a bad day. But, if you exercise just a little bit, you can release some endorphins and feel the oncoming happy feelings as a result. It works every time and your down day can become that much better. In fact, exercise has been proven scientifically
to help those who struggle with depression—even cases as serious as clinical depression. Some scenarios even showed exercise to produce similar results to antidepressants in treating such depression cases. You don’t need to be a frequent gym-goer or obsessed with bodybuilding, just get moving for 30 minutes a handful of times per week and your mood will improve drastically. Exercise is one of the ‘pleasure’ activities that makes your brain release dopamine—and the more often you do it, the more you’ll consistently keep a steady level of happiness flowing through your body. That same release will help you also ignore or replace other pleasure-centered bad activities like eating junk food and drinking alcohol. Ultimately, being active naturally balances your hormones
to a more ideal state.
Our brain naturally begins to decline with age, and certain diseases like Alzheimer’s actually eat away at brain cells and make us lose out on some of the most important processes. It might sound scary, but we can be proactive against those declines before they happen. Exercise before you’re 45 promotes the production of chemicals in your brain that stabilize your memory and learning abilities by thwarting the regression of the hippocampus. Not only that, but exercise also can build your brain to be stronger, just like your muscles. A number of research sources showed that cardio exercises are able to create new brain cells
and boost the brain’s cognitive abilities overall. More studies said high-intensity workouts raised BDNF
, a protein in the brain responsible for aiding in making choices, higher thinking and learning. It’s been speculated for years that the brain still has the power to regenerate new cells even in old age, as long as the body is taken care of properly through regular exercise and activity. The main focus as you age shouldn’t be the fear of aging or decline, but rather valuing health seriously and being proactive every day.
Relieve Anxiety & Insomnia
Your natural instinct to relax is to lay down on the couch or draw a warm bath, right? Those seem like far more relaxing options than jogging. But the truth is, moderately intense aerobic exercise can actually lower how sensitive you are to anxiety. So it’s better for more than just shedding extra weight. Moderate exercise can even have the same effects of a sleeping aid
for those who have trouble sleeping at night. An ideal time to workout is five to six hours before you sleep. Your core temperature will go up and by the time it drops back down to a regular level a few hours later, your body picks up on the signal that it’s bedtime.
Keeping consistent with exercise and movement as a routine can strengthen your memory and learning ability, even as an adult. Sweat-inducing activities raise cell production in your hippocampus
that regulate your ability to learn new information and skills. Research has seen a connection between brain development and kids who are active—kids who were deemed “physically fit” had 12% larger hippocampus region in the brain. But that connection isn’t limited to younger people. Exercise in any form can come as a benefit to adults as well. One study saw the effects of running as a way to have better vocabulary retention in adults
. After some high intensity exercise, individuals showed a 20% faster vocabulary learning.