How Physical Exercise Also Benefits Your Brain

Because I recognize that our thoughts and emotions play a huge role in the results we get in our lives, I’ve made a point of “training my brain” as well as my body.  After talking to a good friend of mine about this, he recommended I check out an online brain-boosting program called Lumosity.com.  I did sign up and as much as I enjoy the website and the program, I find it hard to make time to do those exercises with my busy schedule.

Well was I ever pleased to learn about this new study!

As it turns out, new research has demonstrated that physical exercise actually improves your brain health and performance BETTER than specific mental exercises (such as puzzles, brain games, and social interaction).  That’s right, working out actually boosts your brain power (ie: memory, problem solving, reaction time, etc) and slows down the aging process of the brain more effectively than participation in social or mentally stimulating activities.

This is nice to know that I’m in a position to help people improve their brain health as well as their body, and slow the aging process both mentally and physically.  It’s also a relief to know I can kill two birds with one stone as long as I keep up with my physical exercise routine.

This study found that people who exercised regularly later in life showed less brain shrinkage over a three-year period than those who did little exercise. Psychologists and Neuro-imaging experts did not find there to be any benefit to brain health for older people from participation in social or mentally stimulating activities.

Your mental and physical health not only go hand in hand, but it’s also 2 way street… your mindset also supports your physical fitness. Mental conditioning is important for staying motivated and getting better results from your exercise routine. By focusing on positive goals and training your brain to stay on track, you are far more likely to be successful with your fitness program.

Maintaining a healthy brain

Brain shrinkage is linked to problems with memory and thinking and the researchers say their findings suggest that exercise is one important method of maintaining a healthy brain both in terms of size and reducing damage.  The researchers studied over 700 adults over 70 years of age and found that those who exercised regularly had a greater volume of healthy brain tissue over all.

Levels of Physical Activity

Scientists also recorded whether or not the participants took part in mentally stimulating activities such reading and participating in social groups. Here is what they reported:

“Our results suggest that to maintain brain health, physical activity may be more beneficial than choosing more sedentary activities. We are excited by the next stages of this research as we seek to understand more about what might underlie the effect, but in the meantime, increasing physical activity – even a short walk each day – can only be encouraged.”

-Dr Alan Gow Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology

“This research is exciting as it provides vital clues as to what impacts the way our brain ages and how we could tackle mental decline. If we can establish definitively that exercise provides protection against mental decline, it could open the door to exercise programmes tailored to the needs of people as they age. We already know that exercise is important in reducing our risk of some illnesses that come with ageing, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. This research reemphasises that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it’s a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, those of us who can, get active as we grow older.”

-Professor James Goodwin Head of Research at Age UK

As encouraging as this is, I would also add that getting proper sleep and rest, as well as adequate nutrition (including good fats such as coconut oil and fish oil) and hydration is also extremely important for brain health and mental performance.

The bottom line is now you have yet another compelling reason to include regular physical exercise in your weekly routine.

Stay fit and stay smart,

Josh

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