Physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, keeps your brain healthy in a few different ways. And the good news is that exercising for even just 20 minutes helps the way you process information and remember it. So how does this all happen?
Exercise Helps Your Blood Flow
Exercise increases your heart rate. It makes your heart and all your blood vessels stronger. Stronger blood vessels create a better blood flow to your brain. That means more oxygen is pumped to the brain. This better blood flow probably stops the buildup of plaques that are linked to dementia. In addition, strong blood flow may help to nourish the brain and slow mental decline.
Help for your Memory
Aim for exercise that increases the rate of your breathing and your heart rate. This exercise is called aerobic exercise. Examples are walking, jogging, or gardening. This kind of exercise helps the hippocampus in your brain to grow. This area of the brain is linked to memory and learning. Some studies suggest that the brain growth is even stronger if you actually enjoy like the activity you’re doing. So choose a type of exercise that you like.
Makes Brain more Flexible
Recent research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise helps the brain to make new neuronal connections. This is know as neuroplasticity. It is the ability of your brain to change when you learn and experience new things. Younger brains are generally better than older ones at doing this, but even those of the same age can have very different capacities. Aerobic exercise and weight training are two types of exercise that may help your brain become more flexible.
Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression can all are all linked to dementia. People who exercise probably won’t suffer from these challenges and therefore are less likely to suffer from dementia. In addition, scientists can actually see that people who exercise have healthier brains: the brain has more white and gray brain matter and less diseased tissue.
Drop in Stress
Exercise makes you feel good. You’ve probably heard of “runner’s high.” This feeling works much like an antidepressant. And it also makes the level of stress hormones in the blood drop. A study from Stockholm showed that the antidepressant effect of running was also associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus. This area of the brain is responsible for learning and memory.
Exercise keeps your brain healthy by helping you to sleep well. People who exercise are more able to wind down at bedtime and establish a healthy sleep-wake cycle. It seems that peopel who exercise exercise tend to get more “slow wave” sleep. This is the kind of deep sleep that helps revitalize your brain and body. Slow wave sleep may also be important for memory consolidation.