Thursday, June 16, 2022

What Does Working Out Do To Your Brain

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Exercise Can Build The Mind’s Muscles

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Have you ever noticed that while your body might feel a bit fatigued, you feel more alert and energized after a bout of exercise? It’s been proven that physical activity can improve brain functions like memory and cognition both immediately after a workout and in the long-term.

In research with rodents , there’s evidence that exercise increases the blood supply to their brains and promotes the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a brain area that is essential for learning and memory. In one study, one group of rats got free access to a running wheel and another ran on a treadmill for an hour a day. After 30 days, both groups had a better blood supply to their brains. A group of sedentary rats showed no increase. An increased blood supply means increased oxygen and energy supply, and that equals better performance. The improvement in performance can also be attributed, at least in part, to an exercise-induced increase in adult hippocampal neurogenesis.

Although these types of studies are only now beginning in humans, the theory is that because sports combine learning and exercise, they may both increase blood supply and enhance brain connections.

Recent studies suggest physical activity benefits white and gray matter in the brain, which leads to enhancement of cognitive processes like thinking and memory, attention span, and perception.

Improve Your Mental Health

Love it or hate it, bouts of physical activity can have potent effects on your mood. The runners high that feeling of elation that follows intense exercise is real. Even mice get it. It may not be due to an endorphin rush, though. Levels of the bodys homemade opiate do rise in the bloodstream, but its not clear how much endorphin actually gets into the brain. Instead, recent evidence points to a pleasurable and pain-killing firing of the endocannabinoid system: the psychoactive receptor of cannabis.

What about yoga? Does it really help with stress? When anxiety levels rise, you tense up, your heart races and your attention narrows to a slit. This shift to fight or flight mode is automatic, but that doesnt mean its wholly out of your control. Yoga teaches the deliberate command of movement and breathing, with the aim of turning on the bodys relaxation response. Science increasingly backs this claim. For example, a 2010 study put participants through eight weeks of daily yoga and meditation practice. In parallel with self-reported stress-reduction, brain scans showed shrinkage of part of their amygdala, a deep-brain structure strongly implicated in processing stress, fear and anxiety.

Can Exercise Improve Your Mood

Whether you achieve the so called ‘runners high’, or not, exercise has been found to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. A study in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology found that the antidepressant effect of running is due to more cell growth in the hippocampus.

Interestingly if you work out in a group, a study in the journal of Adaptive Human Behavior and Psychology found the brain will release natural pain relieving Endogenous Opioid System to help encourage social closeness. A good everyday example of this would be a rowing team that finds the strength to power through to the end of a race.

Exercise doesnt just boost your heart rate, help you sleep better and reduce stress, but it also improves your diet. A study in the International Journal of Obesity discovered in 2019 that the more vigorously a person exercises, the more they start to choose healthier foods. In a study of 2,680 sedentary adults, they found that the ones who started working out were more likely to choose nutritious foods, like lean meats, fruit and nuts, and less likely to choose fried foods, soda and snack foods. An additional study in the journal Appetite found that intense exercise even kickstarts appetite-regulating hormones.

So whether you like the idea of going for a run or not, its clear that a heart-pumping workout is a smart move. If you’re not sure where to start, though, we have a guide to how to get fit to start you off.

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How Mental Exercise Also Protects Your Brain

As you put your body through its paces, give your brain a workout, too. Research suggests that engaging in mentally stimulating activities helps build your cognitive reserve, your ability to withstand adverse brain changes before you exhibit symptoms. Experts believe that people who have attained a higher education level or have been exposed to more brain-stimulating activities may be more resilient to these negative effects.

We think these new skills and habits create more connections between brain cells and brain areas, he adds. The more new things we learn, the more connections there are, so even if some of them die as a result of brain disease, there are still some connections that remain, which allows you to remain more functional.

However, research about the benefits of specialized brain-training programs has produced mixed results, Dr. Bonner-Jackson notes: The majority of evidence would indicate that these tests help you do better in a particular area, so if its training your attention, youll get better at doing that attention task. Whats less clear is whether it will generalize to other areas of your life.

We encourage people not to be too socially isolated or withdraw too much because that can have detrimental effects on mood and cognition, Dr. Bonner-Jackson advises. Overall, your body and mind are connected, so if youre staying physically, mentally and socially active and treating your body right, you can make a world of difference.

Neurological Benefits Of Exercise

5 Essential Exercises To Work Out Your Brain  CBS Sacramento
  • 08-12-2021

Perhaps you have a rough idea about how exercise affects your health, weight, and energy levels. But do you know about its impact on the brain?

The neurological benefits are clear and significant.

In this article, we will be taking a 360° view on the context, the facts, the research and the benefits connecting the brain, health, and physical activity.

This discussion will be supplemented with advice and detailed specific exercises, as well as details of their health effects.

We will also elaborate on how to make exercise feel more meaningful and poetic with our bodies.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to . These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

You can download the free PDF here.

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Exercise Can Sharpen Memory

There’s also scientific evidence that people who exercise experience improvements in episodic memory, which is our ability to bind how events, people and places come together in everyday life. Exercise can also benefit the brain’s spatial navigation, or the ability to remember everyday life events, like where you parked your car.

Exercise can also help people maintain their cognitive abilities as they age. Many studies have found that physically active elderly people perform better than sedentary elderly people on cognitive tasks such as reasoning, vocabulary, memory and reaction time. It’s known that regular exercise can prevent memory-related diseases like Alzheimer’s. Exercise can increase the brain’s ability to create new neurons in rodents, which can enable the brain to learn new information and improve memory. Whether adult hippocampal neurogenesis can be increased by exercise in humans remains to be determined, but there is a robust and growing body of research among school-aged children.

For people who have already been diagnosed with memory-related diseases, exercise is a commonly recommended intervention. Studies show that one year of activity interventions can increase the volume of the hippocampus the part of the brain that deals with learning and memory by one percent.

Exercise Makes You Brave

Courage is another side effect of physical activity on the brain. At the very same time that a new exercise habit is enhancing the reward system, it also increases neural connections among areas of the brain that calm anxiety. Regular physical activity can also modify the default state of the nervous system so that it becomes more balanced and less prone to fight, flight, or fright.

The latest research even suggests that lactatethe metabolic by-product of exercise that is commonly, but erroneously, blamed for muscle sorenesshas positive effects on mental health. After lactate is released by muscles, it travels through the bloodstream to the brain, where it alters your neurochemistry in a way that can reduce anxiety and protect against depression.

Sometimes, the movement itself allows us to experience ourselves as brave, as the language we use to describe courage relies on metaphors of the body. We overcome obstacles, break through barriers, and walk through fire. We carry burdens, reach out for help, and lift one another up. This is how we as humans talk about bravery and resilience.

When we are faced with adversity or doubting our own strength, it can help to feel these actions in our bodies. The mind instinctively makes sense out of physical actions. Sometimes we need to climb an actual hill, pull ourselves up, or work together to shoulder a heavy load to know that these traits are a part of us.

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What Counts As Regular Exercise

According to experts, the recommended amount of exercise to keep your mind sharp is about an hour a day. One of the best ways to get exercise is to play sports. Being on a team can build self-confidence, and regular practice schedules are good for your health. If you dont like sports or competition, thats OK too! Exercise doesnt only mean playing sports, it just means moving your body and being active. A few other examples of exercise are: dancing, walking, biking, swimming, or throwing a Frisbee.

What Does The Study Show About Brain Function And Exercise

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This was a controlled study, meaning that it was controlled for both physical gender and intelligence. Aspects of the study pertain to participation in physical activities or in cognitive functions. Leaders of the study found that there was a slower time for reaction among the older subjects when compared with the younger ones. The younger subjects also had a faster, better, reaction time pertaining to their purchase a patient in physical activity.

In both older and younger test subjects, those who were physically active on a regular basis showed better physical performance and cognitive function in both reaction time. It is important to note, however, that Hillman found no positive correlation between response accuracy and regular physical exercise among the group of younger participants. This is not the first study to show such results.

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Can Diet Impact Your Mental Health

Your diet is an often-overlooked factor that can surely influence your mental health.

Its well known that a nutritious diet can promote a healthy body composition, regulate energy levels, and help reduce the risk of certain diseases (

Here are some possible ways to optimize your diet for mental health:

  • Focus on healthy fats such as avocado, nut butters, olive oil, and fatty fish.
  • Limit processed food intake.
  • Include plenty of fruits and vegetables at least two servings and three servings daily, respectively.
  • Try to consume enough fiber by focusing on complex carbs, or whole grains.
  • Opt for lean proteins such as chicken, fish, tofu, turkey, and lean cuts of beef or pork.
  • Include plenty of unsweetened beverages to stay hydrated.

It Protects Your Brain From Aging And Neurodegenerative Diseases

Imagine your brain as a muscle: the more workout you put into it, the stronger and bigger it gets.

Longitudinal studies in humans suggest that regular exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, both of which are susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

So while exercising won’t completely prevent or cure normal cognitive decline in aging, doing it consistently can help reduce or delay the onset of it. In many ways, exercise is like a supercharged 401 for your brain and it’s even better, because it’s free.

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Exercise Fuels The Brain’s Stress Buffers

Exposure to long-term stress can be toxic to in the body, even leading to medical concerns like high blood pressure and a weakened immune system, along with mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.

It may seem counterintuitive that exercise, a form of physical stress, can help the body manage general stress levels. But the right kind of stress can actually make the body more resilient. Research shows that while exercise initially spikes the stress response in the body, people experience lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine after bouts of physical activity.

So far, there’s little evidence for the popular theory that exercise causes a rush of endorphins. Rather, one line of research points to the less familiar neuromodulator norepinephrine, which may help the brain deal with stress more efficiently. Research in animals since the late 1980s has found that exercise increases brain concentrations of norepinephrine in brain regions involved in the body’s stress response.

Norepinephrine is particularly interesting to researchers because 50% of the brain’s supply is produced in the locus coeruleus, a brain area that connects most of the brain regions involved in emotional and stress responses. The chemical is thought to play a major role in modulating the action of other, more prevalent neurotransmitters that play a direct role in the stress response.

Getting Started With Exercise When You Have A Mental Health Issue

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Many of us find it hard enough to motivate ourselves to exercise at the best of times. But when you feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have another mental health problem, it can seem doubly difficult. This is especially true of depression and anxiety, which can leave you feeling trapped in a catch-22 situation. You know exercise will make you feel better, but depression has robbed you of the energy and motivation you need to work out, or your social anxiety means you cant bear the thought of being seen at an exercise class or running through the park.

Start small. When youre under the cloud of anxiety or depression and havent exercised for a long time, setting extravagant goals like completing a marathon or working out for an hour every morning will only leave you more despondent if you fall short. Better to set achievable goals and build up from there.

Focus on activities you enjoy. Any activity that gets you moving counts. That could include throwing a Frisbee with a dog or friend, walking laps of a mall window shopping, or cycling to the grocery store. If youve never exercised before or dont know what you might enjoy, try a few different things. Activities such as gardening or tackling a home improvement project can be great ways to start moving more when you have a mood disorderas well as helping you become more active, they can also leave you with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

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Exercise Can Reduce Your Risk Of Chronic Disease

Lack of regular physical activity is a primary cause of chronic disease .

Regular exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, heart health, and body composition. It can also decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels (

  • 32 ).
  • Hypertension: Participating in regular aerobic exercise can lower resting systolic BP 57 mmHG among people with hypertension .

In contrast, a lack of regular exercise even in the short term can lead to significant increases in belly fat, which may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease .

Thats why regular physical activity is recommended to reduce belly fat and decrease the risk of developing these conditions .


Daily physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic disease.

Another Way Exercise Boosts Brain Health

Like other cells in the body, brain cells are powered by mitochondria, organelles within cells that produce ATP, the cellular energy currency. One way in which the body adapts to endurance exercise is by increasing the number of mitochondria with muscle cells. This helps them produce more energy and ward off fatigue. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, endurance exercise also boosts brain cell mitochondria. This helps brain cells function better too.

Research also shows that exercise can improve thinking in people who have already undergone some mental decline. Millions of people suffer from a syndrome called mild cognitive impairment where they have difficulty remembering things and frequently misplace items. Up to 15% of these people go on later in life to develop dementia.

A study published in the Archives of Neurology showed that people with mild cognitive impairment who did high-intensity exercise for an hour four times weekly for 6 months improved their thinking ability more than those who simply stretched. In addition, another study published in the same journal showed that middle-aged people who exercised reduced their risk of ever getting mild cognitive impairment in the first place.

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Are There Any Negative Effects Of Exercise On The Brain And Its Chemistry

Best to do some low-intensity training just before, as well right after, a learning task.

Too much is too much. You dont want to put your body under chronic stress by overdoing it. There is an upper limit where too much exercise stops being helpful.

For example, if you were to do an ultramarathon, your cortisol levels might stay elevated, which may in turn temporarily freeze your memory functions.

For some strenuous exercises, there will be different effects on the brain at different times following your workout. For example, immediately after doing HIIT, you will probably feel quite exhausted, which means it might not be so good for thinking. Best to do some low-intensity training just before, as well right after, a learning task. However, one study demonstrated that if you exercise intensely, not right after, but four hours after a learning session your learning results are actually enhanced, However, more studies need to be done for these time buffers with exercise and the brain.

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