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Benefits of exercise on the brain

Movement is medicine for the body and mind!

Most of us spend time exercising with the aim of toning up our arms, getting flat abs, getting a pert bum etc etc, but do you ever think about your brain and how that benefits from exercise? Like our muscles, the brain is subject to the use it or lose it premise and the stimulation that it gets when you grab your trainers and go work out has such a positive effect on its function.

What are the benefits?

  • It fights depression - multiple hormones are put into action when you exercise and among other things it produces more feel-good hormones (serotonin, dopamine and endorphins) which lift your mood

  • It reduces stress - the stress hormone cortisol ages your brain, and scattered thinking and forgetfulness are affected if you’re stressed. So, the production of the happy hormones mentioned above will help lighten the load

  • It improves cognitive function - if your workout involves coordination, balance or strategy then your brain will benefit from improved function, that is to say that you’ll be able to better manage complex tasks for example. If you can think clearer then you’re likely to achieve more

  • It increases brain growth - as we age our brain cell growth slows, but it’s been shown that cardio activity which increases your heart rate (which is what pumps oxygen to the brain) can prevent this slowing

Some tips:

  • Working out in the morning (if you can manage an early start!) is great as it clears the mind ready for the day ahead by spiking brain activity and increasing your retention of new information

  • Try activities that challenge your mind as well as your body. Dance classes are great for this, but mindful practices like Pilates and Yoga also help by making you more body and mind aware

  • Try cardio or high intensity activities to spike the heart rate and get that blood flowing to your brain.

  • Mix up your workouts. Don’t just stick to the same thing every time. Just as our muscles get bored and any growth plateaus, the brain does the same. You need to make sure there’s a challenge there

Naturally exercise can’t cure everything, but keeping our bodies active, will go some way to helping us keep our mental well-being in check. So, it’s worth a go eh?!


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