Exercise and Brain Health

The benefits of regular exercise are often more apparent on physical level. You may feel healthier and look a tad better. Even so, exercise can still benefit your brain, although it is more difficult to notice. In general you can absorb new information more easily and preserve your memory, even when you’re older.

When it comes to exercising, there are many choices available. For example, in a local gym, you may find many exercise types. So what you should do? This list offers some advices on workable alternatives:

Researches have shown that aerobic activities can benefit your brain more that activities that rely on concentration, like yoga and meditation. As we grow older, our brain tends to have less cognitive skills due to tissue loss. Regular aerobic exercise is a good way to postpone or in a few cases reverse the effects of injury and aging.

Studies have confirmed that regular exercise on adults can improve the ability to learn new things. Exercises may consolidate new information. As we exercise less and get older, we may tend to replace physical activity with cognitive one. But as we get older, keeping up with exercise is even more important. Regular exercise is the key in preserving our ability to recall stored information. Even it is just 30 minutes of exercise a day, memory decline can be prevented over time.

An important indicator in brain exercise is to maintain a higher heart rate throughout the activity. This type of exercise, require a steady supply of oxygen to create enough energy. Instead of short bursts of movements, try to keep your heartbeat constant for the duration of the exercise. Exercises like swimming, cycling and running can boost your brain power, no matter whether you’re young or old.

Finding your ideal level

• 50 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate: It is very easy to do; you can easily reach this level, just with light stretching and warm up.

• 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate: You’re entering both the “fat burning zone” and the “brain boosting zone”.

• 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate: Your brain can get more benefit from your exercise.

• 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate: When performed regularly, you’ll have much less lethargy and tiredness during the day, which can significantly improve your cognitive ability.

One simple formula to know the best heart rate during an exercise for your brain is to subtract 220 with your age.

Mental Health and Exercise

Neuroplasticity can also be used to describe changes after a trauma or injury on some parts of the brain. Recently, researchers have also discovered that our brain can retain its “plasticity” during the adulthood. When we are learning for a new knowledge or skill, our brain will change to absorb the new information. As the result, exercising regularly before, during and after learning can improve cognitive performance.

Schizophrenia is often associated with diminishing brain volume, especially in the hippocampus area, which is important for memory and learning. Some clinical trials have proven that regular physical exercises can help to improve the hippocampus volume on those with schizophrenia. It turns out that the type of your exercise can make all the difference. For example, those who play table football may have enhanced concentration and coordination, but not enough fitness level, obviously there is no detectable increase in brain volume on this group.

Meanwhile, those who use bike three times each week, for half an hour each, can have 12 more increase in brain volume than the table football group. This important research shows that regular aerobic activities can make a huge difference on people with brain problems, like schizophrenia. People with this condition are not the only group that has problem with hippocampus. Elderly are also shown to have lower hippocampus volume, which result in memory loss and lower cognitive skills. On older people, it is proven that regular exercise can reverse aging affect on cognitive performance. How is it possible? Intensive physical activities restore chemical production that is needed to create brain stem cells. When our hippocampus produces very few brain stem cells, we often have problem absorbing new information and suffer memory loss.

Depressed people can have better mental health with regular exercise. A research on distressed people shows that after an hour of aerobic exercises, they will feel much less tense and stressed, they also feel less energetic and their anger levels drop. Participants reported significant improvements on their mood after completing the program and some even still feel the benefit for six months after the physical activities end. Some experts even believe that the effect of regular exercises is better than anti-depressants. Of course, you shouldn’t throw away prescribed drugs immediately, but anytime you feel depressed, you should wear your sneakers and run for a mile instead of opening the drug cabinet.

ADHD and Exercise

ADHD is associated with behavioral problems, including the failure to focus on more than one task and hyperactivity. The prevalence of ADHD is rising and people are finding for ways to manage symptoms on a regular basis. Some treatments focus on physical exercise and some health professionals consider them as a good alternative to methylphenidate (a common type of drug used to treat ADHD symptoms). Michael Phelps who got a whopping eight gold medals at Olympic 2008, was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 10. But after following intensive training, his symptoms are significantly improved, although he stopped using the medication completely. This is not an isolated case; many children with ADHD can reduce their hyperactive symptoms by more than fifty percent after following 30 minutes of physical active programs each day.

Interesting reading:

  1. benefits of adhd diagnosis
  2. do I have adhd

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