OK, I get it. Very few of us really want to jump out of bed and hit the treadmill, or go to the gym. But you did make that New Year’s resolution, didn’t you? You promised yourself you would get in shape and get healthier.
And what will that exercise do for you? It may not be an actual fountain of youth. You won’t suddenly flatten your abdomen and burn 15 pounds, but a consistent exercise routine throughout the week will be one of the best things you do for yourself. And it will improve not only your body, but also your brain.
Remember how you forget everything? No? Well one problem may be that you don’t get enough exercise throughout the day. The hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory functions, responds well to cardiovascular and aerobic exercise.
In studies of both children and adults researchers found that the hippocampus grew as the participants became more fit. In other studies, older adults showed the same relationship between activity and brain structure changes.
Short term studies have also shown that increased physical activity can lead to better learning and memory functions. One German study looked at how participants learned a language. After steadily walking or cycling during foreign language learning, test subjects were better able to recall vocabulary words.
Everyone has creative slumps. Writers, choreographers, even mathematicians often look for creative solutions to dynamic problems. While inactivity can lead to a one ended concrete way of approaching problems, exercise has been shown to boost creativity when it comes to addressing specific issues.
Students at Stanford University aimed to test this hypothesis and strolled around the college campus. They experienced an increase in the number of free-roaming idea they had. They were better able to handle academic related problems. Steady walking helps calm the nerves and it promotes creativity.
We don’t usually think about Parkinson’s disease. We are starting to think seriously about Alzheimer’s. Both are real degenerative neurological conditions that many are likely to develop by the end of their lives. The science is still a bit shaky on the matter on the exact causes. But there is some research that points to diet and exercise contributions.
Studies have shown that exercise will delay, if not prevent, the onset of dementia. And you don’t have to kill yourself in the gym, 30 to 40 minutes of walking three to five times a week can significantly reduce your risk. And it’s not only the aerobic exercises that help. Balance, resistance or weight training exercise, and yoga also help.
One study observing German seniors who practiced yoga, lifted weights in static positions, and went dancing even twice a week saw increased brain cell connections. This was a surprise as it was previously thought that people of this age could no longer build newer and stronger brain structures.
Exercise reduces insulin resistance and inflammation, the root causes of many health problems.
One of exercises’s great gifts is the stimulation of growth factors that promote brain cell health. Regular exercise promotes new blood vessel growth, and supports growth and survival of new brain cells.
Last, exercise helps increase oxygen levels to the brain. This helps to improve mental performance. It also slows the rate of fatigue, improves overall brain function, enhances motor skills and stimulates better blood flow throughout the body.
Indirectly exercise deals with problems that contribute to cognitive impairment, by boosting mood, promoting better sleep, reducing stress and lowering anxiety.
It’s really not about what you do as much as it is that you just do something. All it takes is a half an hour walk through a park. Not only will you feel significantly better, but you will actually alter your brain structure and function. That will help you remember information for a test, your job, whatever, and you’ll reduce your risk of developing serious degenerative brain diseases.