Exercise, by definition, is putting the body through exertion. But does that mean exercise only benefits the body? Certainly not. The benefits to the brain of working out are actually just as extensive and significant. Keeping the brain in excellent condition requires regular workouts (especially as aging begins to be a factor). David Reagan, an Atlanta fitness trainer, describes exercise’s six biggest brain benefits.
The brain’s ability to adapt and change is reduced as time passes. This ability, which is called neuroplasticity, is most present in childhood. In physical terms, neuroplasticity is represented by the capacity for neurons in the brain to form connections with each other. Working out acts to shore up the brain’s ability to create neural connections.
Higher Production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF for short) is a substance in the brain that plays a key role in facilitating the growth of new brain cells, communication between brain cells, and other basic aspects of brain health. More BDNF is produced when the brain is stimulated. One of the best ways to stimulate the brain is with vigorous exercise.
Exercise’s ability to reduce inflammation is beneficial for the entire body. In the brain specifically, alleviating inflammation is valuable because inflammation can damage the brain in many ways. While inflammation is designed to protect from injury and infection, the process can get out of control, killing large amounts of neurons.
Reduction of Stress
Some stress level is useful for getting a person to resolve whatever problem is generating anxiety. However, out-of-control stress makes life miserable. Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Working out triggers the release of the brain chemical, called endorphins, which are associated with euphoria and other good feelings. This process directly reduces stress.
Lower Risk For Mental Disorders
Many awful mental health problems are connected to too much stress. While exercise is definitely not a way to prevent mental disorders, it reduces the risk for depression, severe anxiety, and similar conditions. In addition, by maintaining physical health, working out also lowers the risk for injuries and other health problems, which are often a factor in the development of mental health problems.
Slower Brain Aging
Like all other forms of aging, brain aging can’t ultimately be halted. What can be done, however, is to impede the nasty effects of aging on the brain — aging can be a graceful process. Exercise is crucial to achieving that end. Exercise’s effects on neuroplasticity have already been described. This process will lower the risk for dementia, age-related memory loss, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of cognitive decline, which are among the worst potential effects of aging on the brain.
While regular exercise is critical to maintaining a healthy, capable brain as the years of life pass by, it is, of course, far from the only vital step to take. Eating a balanced diet featuring plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean, healthy proteins, but only small amounts of sugar and highly processed foods is also important. Maintaining strong, deep social connections is also necessary. Regular workouts are thus only a part of the overall healthy, sensible lifestyle that is needed to make the brain capable, both in the present day and over extended time spans.
About David Reagan
David Reagan is a NASM Certified personal trainer from Atlanta, GA, who specializes in weight loss, personalized workout plans, bodybuilding, and nutrition. He caters to high-end clients and executives, helping them achieve their fitness goals by accommodating their busy schedules. The client’s needs come first, and David’s fitness plan will set you up on the path to success.