We all know the multitude of benefits of being physically active. The main ones are that it reduces the odds of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes and that it helps you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, prevent depression, or basically look better. Well, there’s one more big advantage of regular exercise: It changes the brain in ways that protects memory and thinking skills.
A study was conducted based on this very premise on which it was found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, actually boosts the size of the hippocampus. Hippocampus is the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.
What exercise does for your brain
Exercise impacts your brain both directly and indirectly. Directly, regular exercise helps in stimulating the release of growth factors, the brain chemicals that contribute to the health of your brain cells and the number of new ones. Growth factors also have a role in the growth of new blood vessels in the brain.
Indirectly, exercise improves mood, sleep patterns, and reduces anxiety. All of these eventually lead to improved cognition.
According to some studies, people who have a regular exercise schedule have greater volume in their prefrontal cortex. Prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that is responsible for higher levels of thinking like decision making and complex cognitive behavior. Aerobic exercise is also responsible for boosting the size of the hippocampus. Your hippocampus is responsible for a lot of things, including learning and verbal memory.
How to become smarter with exercise?
There is no one type of exercise that is best for your brain. According to experts, any type of exercise that gets your blood pumping (including walking) is beneficial.
Yoga is a great alternative too. It has similar benefits mentally as aerobic exercise. According to research, yoga practitioners were found to have larger volumes in both the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus regions of their brains.
How much exercise you should do depends on your age, physical condition, and personal goals. But, remember, something is always better than nothing. A good rule of thumb is a minimum of 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise. Also a recent study showed that those who achieved at least 7,500 steps per day had a higher total brain volume than the more sedentary participants.
Any exercise is good exercise
You don’t have to go full power gym mania to get the benefits of being active. Just doing anything is good. Taking a 30-minute walk daily is a very good step to keeping you healthy, not just physically, but mentally as well.
Find an activity that you enjoy. One that you can keep doing regularly until it turns into a habit. If you’re not a big fan of walking, try out other moderate-intensity exercises, such as swimming, stair climbing, or dancing. Household activities can also be quite physically taxing, such as intense floor mopping, or anything that gets your heart pumping enough to break you out in a light sweat.
Whatever exercise and you choose to do, turn it into a habit, almost like taking a prescription medication. Exercise is, after all, a medicine in itself.
Stay healthy, stay safe 🙂