Many of the benefits of vigorous exercise are easy to recognize. Soon you will notice that your endurance builds as your muscles increase in strength. You will likely find that you have an abundance of energy and more stamina, and sleep better at night. It won’t take long for your renewed dedication to fitness to significantly affect your physique.
Because of the many health benefits, you may be considering beginning a fitness program, or stepping up your fitness plan. That’s a right call. Consistent exercise reduces your risk of developing many chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.
You Could be Underestimating the Positive Effects on Your Brain
Increasing your strength, enhancing your shape, and protecting your body from diseases are great reasons to strive for physical fitness. However, the benefits to your body are only part of the equation. Knowing the many potential effects of exercise on your brain could spur your resolve to step up your game. Just some of the many brain-boosting benefits include:
- Improving your concentration and learning abilities
- Enhancing your mood
- Reducing your brain age by about ten years
- Facilitating brain growth
- Boosting your memory
- Sharpening executive functions
- Alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Decreasing the physical impact of stress hormones on your body
- Lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia (or delaying symptom progression)
Aerobic Exercise Facilitates Brain Growth
Regular aerobic activity, the type of exercise that gets your heart pounding and makes you sweat, increases the size of your hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of your brain responsible for memory and learning.
Studies verify that six months of participating in an aerobic activity significantly increases the brain volume in those previously sedentary. This phenomenon is thought to occur because of an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). All it takes is 120 minutes each week of moderate physical activity to reap the rewards.
Exercise Minimizes the Physical Effects of Stress
When you are under pressure, your body lives under the influence of increased cortisol levels, stress hormones. Cortisol accelerates the breakdown of proteins to amino acids. Prolonged high concentrations of cortisol results in tissue loss and increased blood sugar levels. High cortisol levels can also lower your immunity. That’s because cortisol decreases your white blood cell count and interferes with antibody formation.
Stress can throw your neurotransmitter levels, the dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in your system, out of balance. This imbalance can result in anxiety, depression, and physical pain. Just 30 minutes of vigorous activity will increase the levels of these essential neurotransmitters in your bloodstream. These natural endorphins are proven to reduce pain, with an effect similar to morphine.
Exercise Improves Your Cognitive Abilities
Frequent vigorous activity can enhance your cognitive abilities. Typically, those who engage in a regular exercise program score higher in cognitive testing than those who are less active. Scores in thinking speed and recalling past events increase with exercise.
Those who exercise less show sharper memory declines, aging their brains by an estimated ten years. That means your mental functions could be ten years younger than that of your sedentary peers.
Improves Your Higher-Level Thinking Skills
When you engage in regular aerobic activity, you may notice the fog has lifted. Not only can your memory and learning be affected by your potentially increased brain size, but your executive functions can improve as well. These are your higher-level thinking skills. You may notice that your ability to plan, organize, set goals, and solve problems, is enhanced by your fitness regimen.
Helps You Regulate Emotional Responses and Nip Bad Habits
Your emotional health and well-being relate strongly to your cognitive ability. Exercise can make it easier to keep your anger in check or continue productively with your day despite stressors or personal turmoil. This effect has to do with self-regulation.
In a study assessing the effects of exercise on self-regulation, emotional equilibrium and mastering unhealthy behaviors, participants were noted to have positive results. Those who exercised reported decreased stress levels and less psychological distress. Research subjects who participated in the exercise program also smoked less, indulged in less alcohol, and consumed less caffeine than before the exercise phase of the study began. Just two months of regular exercise triggered these behavioral changes.
Yes, exercise will decrease your risk of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. It will improve your energy, stamina, and your appearance, but it’s easy to overlook the many positive effects of physical activity on your brain. Exercise protects your brain as you age. The key to finding optimal success is finding activities that fit your lifestyle. Let us help you find your fit at The Fit Yard! With our 4 types of group exercise classes for those located in the Tampa Bay area or Online Personal Training no matter where you are located. Contact us today [email protected] to get started.