More and more people are realizing the importance of getting physical exercise on a regular basis. Weight loss, weight maintenance, overall health and longevity are some of the most common reasons people turn to exercise. This isn’t much of a surprise, as it is well known that staying active plays a considerable role in our mobility as we age. However, studies are now finding that regular exercise may also stimulate positive physical changes in our brains.
Keeping your brain healthy is often one of the top concerns for aging adults. However, while it’s never too late to start exercising, a regular fitness routine may have brain-boosting benefits for children and adults of all ages.
Regardless of age, we all have bouts of forgetfulness now and then. The good news is that recent studies have shown that physical exercise raises brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. BDNF is an important protein that stimulates brain function, especially in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for memory.
Studies focused on BDNF have also shown that exercise can improve how quickly you process information, which can boost problem-solving and decision-making skills.
Going to the gym before work might have more benefits than just getting your workout out of the way. A good cardio workout increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, and studies have shown that higher blood and oxygen levels have an immediate impact on raising our ability to focus. This is also a good reason why it’s important for children to get enough physical activity during and after school.
There is increasing evidence that exercise boosts serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine levels, which can help alleviate depression symptoms. Researchers are now working with doctors to integrate exercise into their treatment plans, helping them determine the right amount of exercise to prescribe to patients with depressive disorders.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to be diagnosed with depression to benefit from the effects of exercise. Everyone has a bad day now and then, and a dopamine-boosting workout may be all that’s needed to set things right again.
When we’re stressed our bodies produce cortisol, a hormone that when produced in excess has been linked to multiple health problems, including dementia. As studies have shown that regular exercise can greatly reduce stress and lower cortisol levels, it may also play a role in reducing the onset of dementia.
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