• Hannah Dyer

After looking at some benefits of exercise that we can't see, I decided to delve further...

1) Prevention of Cognitive Decline

It’s not really something any of us want to think about, but the reality is, as we get older, our brains get a little hazy and generally slower. Unfortunately this can go as far as us suffering from degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. This is where brain cells are killed and the brain literally shrinks, meaning we can lose many important brain functions in the process.

While exercise and a healthy diet, of course, can’t “cure” things such as Alzheimer’s, they can help the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45. Working out, especially between the ages of 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for both memory and learning.

Alzheimer's disease affects more than 5.4 million Americans and ranks as the most common type of dementia, yet effective pharmacological treatments have not yet been identified. Substantial evidence indicates that physical activity enhances learning and memory for people of all ages, including individuals that suffer from cognitive impairment. Research states that exercise reinstates brain function and counteracts age (winner!) as well as Alzheimer’s disease. Both animal and human studies, indicate that exercise, provides a powerful stimulus, that can counteract the changes that underlie the progressive loss of brain function in advancing ages.

It’s also important to note the other ways in which we can keep our noggins in tip top shape; eating the right kinds of fat is very important to assist brain function, (think nuts, salmon, avocado, flax seeds) passing some time with brain teaser type exercises and even listening to music according to findings can help improve memory.

2) Boost of Brainpower

Various studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. These suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning. New brain cells can't be a bad thing right? But what does this increase of neurons mean for us in our day to day lives? Studies have shown that new brain cells, increase memory capacity, reduce the overlap between different memories and also add information regarding time to memories.

So a better body means a better brain? Maybe we really can have it all. Another amazing reason to keep ourselves ship shape! It’s not only our aesthetics that will reap the rewards; it’s a no brainer! (Get it?!)

3) Alleviation of Anxiety

It’s fair to say we’ve all suffered from a little or maybe even a lot of anxiety at some point in our lives. For some of us it’s something we have to try and cope with in our everyday lives, for others it’s something that every now and then will crop up due to a stressful or nerve racking situation. But it’s good to know that some of the chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders. Performing some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety sensitivity and even after just 5 minutes of aerobic type exercise the stimulation of anti-anxiety effects begin.

Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. Some studies show that exercise can work quickly to elevate depressed mood in many people. Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache. Science has also provided some evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.

With demands of work and life and family and friends and everything in between growing at the rate of knots, are our anxiety levels are increasing by the bucket load too. Instead of playing the role of a swan (on the surface you portray a swan moving gracefully through the water, but underneath there is a hell of a lot of frantic paddling going on) deal with your anxiety by helping to keep it at bay through exercise. Let swans be swans, you’re a kick ass m**********r and don’t you forget it

4) Increased Productivity

Research has shown that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout, due to the body’s circadian rhythms.

A 2011 report on a workplace fitness program examined 752 employees from a variety of fields in the U.K. and U.S., including human resources and food supply companies. Those employees who hit (or exceeded) 10,000 steps per day reported significant boosts in job satisfaction and productivity. (Only 18 percent of employees walked 10,000 or more steps per day before the program, and 58 percent were hitting that goal by the end.) Participants who ended the program reporting 90 percent productivity or more, increased an average of 41 percent productivity over the course of the program, and employees who hit the 10,000-step goal, felt more productive, than those who didn’t. Those who hit the goal also reduced their systolic blood pressure, an average of eight percent, more than twice the reduction of those who came in under 10,000 steps.

So go get those 10,000 steps you go getter! A more productive you? Yet a further way in which our brains benefit from all our training efforts.

5) Tap Into Creativity

While most of us end a workout with a stretch and (hopefully!) a shower, maybe we should actually be breaking out the pen and notepad instead. A heart-pumping gym session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards. The philosopher and author Henry Thoreau claimed that his thoughts began to flow ‘the moment my legs began to move.’ Now scientists have discovered that taking part in regular exercise such as going for a walk or riding a bike, really does improve creative thought.

Cognitive psychologist, Professor Lorenza Colzato of Leiden University in The Netherlands, found that those who exercised for four times a week, were able to think more creatively than those with a more sedentary lifestyle. When tested, the volunteers who exercised regularly performed better on a series of cognitive tests. Prof Colzato said : “Anecdotal literature suggests that creative people sometimes use bodily movement to help overcome mental blocks and lack of inspiration. We think that physical movement is good for the ability to think flexibly, but only if the body is used to being active. Otherwise a large part of the energy intended for creative thinking goes to the movement itself. Exercising on a regular basis may thus act as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways.” His test involved asking Volunteers to take part in an ‘Alternative Uses Test’ - where they were invited to come up with ways a pen could be used, other than for writing, and a ‘Remote Associates Test’ where participants were asked to find a common link between three words. Regarding his findings, he said - “We compared the results of those who exercise at least four times a week with the results of those who don’t exercise on a regular basis, we found that people who are doing exercise on a regular basis outperform those who don’t. We think that physical exercise trains your brain to become more flexible in finding creative solutions.

So there we have it, 5 Positive Effects of Exercise on Our Brains & Mental Health, thank you for stopping by!


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