4 ways exercise is helping your brain health and brain performance

exercise benefits for the brain

It’s quite common to hear the benefits of exercise on the body; be it for weight loss, cardiovascular disease or otherwise. Yet, something that is often overlooked are the incredible benefits for your brain.

If you’re a gym regular, you’re about to learn just how beneficial that treadmill commitment really is! Here are 4 fantastic ways your exercise regime is helping your brain health and brain performance. And if you needed any more reasons to get out and moving, these may well be them…

1. Cognitive performance

Exercise can help your cognitive performance by maintaining access for your brain’s life sources.

The brain is complicated organ and with such great responsibility, it needs a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen. This supply is taken through to the brain through a network of beautifully intricate pathways called capillaries. Just like any major road system, it needs maintenance.

Exercise helps with maintenance by powering their construction and keeping them in tip top shape. This has been supported by a study from Matthew Pase (Swinburne University of Technology) who found that high blood pressure can lead to a decline in cognitive performance, most likely as a result of the damage it does to those pathways[3].

2. Mental Health

Exercise can help with your mental health and wellbeing.

One of the better known brain benefits of exercise is its mental health benefits. Exercise encourages the release of certain chemical messengers which help to ‘regulate signaling in the brain’ and also keep you happy, upbeat and level-headed [3].

In fact, long-term moderate aerobic exercise training can help to improve your sleep, reduced depression and cortisol, and help your immune system[4].

3. Memory

Exercise can also help with your memory.

In 1999, Henriette van Praag (US National Institute on Aging) discovered that through exercise, mice could develop new neurons in the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that is vital for memory. The study encouraged mice to run daily for a month, leading to a ‘doubling or tripling of neurons’. Follow-up studies have suggested that this is because exercise increases the level of ‘brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)’ which seems to play a part the growth of these new neurons[1].

Using brain imaging some years later, Art Kramer (University of Illinois) demonstrated that ‘exercise increased hippocampus volume by around 2 per cent’, stating that ‘the volume increase we saw can make up for approximately two years of normal age-related decrease’[1].

4. Brain Health

Exercise can help you to prevent life changing brain diseases.

Studies have suggested that exercise could play a role in your defense against dementia and neurodegeneration. Beth Levine from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that exercise can help certain cells to burn off unhealthy ‘unwanted rubbish’ (such as poor quality DNA) throughout the body and in the brain[1].

In fact, exercising at least twice a week when you hit middle age can help to reduce your chances of developing dementia by the time you reach your 60s and 70s (according to another study of 1500 participants spanning a 20 year period)[3].

So what do you need to do?

If you have an exercise regime already, high-intensity interval training is said to be great for your brain as it can give an ‘immediate boost in recall’ as it fills the brain with chemical messengers and growth hormones[2].

If you’re limited in the exercise you can do or feel you might be too old for this, don’t worry! Studies also saw brain benefits and improved recall from low intensity workouts, such as walking for 30 minutes a few times a week over a 6 month period[2].

Supplements support brain health and performance.

Just as multi-vits and protein powders can be great for your body building and performance, certain natural supplements can assist you on your path to optimal brain health and wellbeing.

brain feed focuses on nutrients which seek to support brain health and brain performance. You can find our current range of brain-related products here, with many more to come in the next 18 months.

[1] https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528792-300-the-workout-pill-why-exercise-is-the-best-medicine [2] https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24526-fit-for-thinking-the-best-brain-boosters [3] https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029421-000-run-yourself-smarter-how-exercise-boosts-your-brain/ [4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25328886

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