exercisingWhen we talk about exercises for the brain, one thing that most people don’t necessarily realize is that regular physical exercise like brisk walking and jogging can be just as good for the brain and it is for the body.  Physical exercise is great for your body’s health, but it also can help keep the brain active and sharp.  Just like our body, your brain needs sufficient oxygen and exercise does that well.  Below are some of the activities that contribute to a healthy mind and body.

Aerobic Exercises
For the most part, the exercises that are good for your heart are good for your brain as well.  This means that practically every aerobic exercise will give your brain a boost.  Here’s what you need to know about aerobic exercise and brain health:

  • Aerobic exercise improves brain function and repairs damaged brain cells.
  • Exercise affects the nervous system and encourages the brain’s “pleasure” chemicals, like dopamine.  This makes people feel happier and calmer.  Regular exercise has also helped improve symptoms of depression in some patients.
  • According to Harvard University, you should strive for 120 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week; you may do it in parts, i.e., an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.
  • Whatever aerobic exercise you choose, it’s important to make it a habit and part of your regular routine.
  • Exercise can reduce anxiety when done in moderation. Remember that a physical activity that’s very intense like sprints won’t decrease anxiety as quickly as moderate exercises such as long walks. It is therefore not necessary to push yourself to your limits; simply getting in 30 minutes of moderate exercise will do the trick.

Yoga and Meditation
Yoga is a great way to stretch and improve flexibility. When combined with meditation practices, it can also help focus and quiet your mind. Plus, meditation reduces stress, which allows the brain to function better.

  • It’s also known to slow down cellular aging, which can help extend your life.
  • People who regularly meditate often say that they feel happier and are better able to deal with day-to-day challenges of life.

Walking
While it’s one of the simplest exercises you can do, walking greatly improves brain power.

  • People who regularly go for walks are able to experience improvement in how different areas of the brain communicate with each other. This is because neural connectivity is enhanced with regular walks. This means that people are better able to plan, strategize, prioritize and multi-task.
  • Also, practically everyone can enjoy a good walk, regardless of their level of fitness or age.

Jogging or Running
For people who have a lot of energy and find it hard to focus when the time comes, jogging or running at the start of the day can be a big help.

  • Running for as little as 15 minutes may reduce that excess energy enough to power through a few hours of work without getting distracted.
  • Going for a quick run is also a great way to bring on a rush of serotonin that can instantly boost your mood.

Group Classes
All types of physical exercises are great for your brain when done on a regular basis.

  • If you are bored of walking and you don’t have the patience for yoga, it’s better to engage in an activity where you work with a group so you look forward to working out rather than drop the notion of exercising entirely.
  • If you need motivation and constant change in your routine, consider getting involved in exercise or dance classes at your local gym.
  • When you have to constantly adjust to a new workout routine, your brain stays active by keeping up with the changes.

Your brain needs to work out to be in good shape just like your body and aerobic exercises are by far the simplest and the most effective forms of physical workout. From molecular changes to behavioral improvements, from enhancing the ability to focus better to meeting a perfect work/life balance, hitting the gym or pounding the pavement will help your body and mind more than you could ever imagine.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author: Michele Holincheck, FNP

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