Reading, music, learning something new, art, thought-provoking movies or podcasts – there are a ton of ways to use and challenge your brain. While it’s important to continuously augment your brain from a psychological standpoint, it’s also imperative to nourish it from a physical perspective as well. How does one do so? By simply moving your body. Your brain LOVES movement! Whether you’re running, walking, lifting heavy weights, playing tag with your kids, it doesn’t matter -- as long as you’re moving your brain is happy. Need proof?
It Makes You Happier
We’ve all dealt with feelings of sadness and anxiety; maybe instead of that sappy movie and pint of ice cream we should head out for a jog. A recent study found that moderate exercise can boost levels of glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), two neurotransmitters that can lead to mood disorders when levels are low.
It Feeds Your Brain
As soon as you begin to move, the rate of blood circulation throughout your body increases dramatically. This increased blood flow not only rushes to your active muscles, but to your brain as well. The blood itself is not important, but what it carries is – nutrients and oxygen, both of which are essential for maintenance and repair of brain tissues.
It Broadens Your Horizons
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you hang out at home or the office all day long. Sitting at your desk and lounging on your couch won’t go very far when it comes to brain health. Along with all the other benefits of exercise, perhaps one of the most decisive is the simple fact that it often forces you into new situations. These new circumstances, movements and environments are exactly what your brain thrives off. New experiences -- rock climbing, snowshoeing, mountain biking or stretching with some yogis -- are what cause your brain to grow and adapt.
It Improves Memory
While it’s making your heart and lungs stronger and more efficient, regular aerobic exercise is also improving your memory. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found aerobic training significantly increased the volume of the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.
It Improves Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity refers to the changes in neural pathways and connections throughout your brain that occur due to different types of stimuli. A meta-analysis of several studies published in the journal Sports Medicine found exercise increases your brain’s ability to respond and adapt to these stimuli, creating new pathways and mending damaged ones.
It Keeps Your Brain Bigger, Longer
With age, tissues of our body naturally begin to dwindle – bones, muscle and brain matter being the big three. Thankfully, we don’t have to sit idly by and let it happen. Strength training is the key to using and keeping your muscles and bones strong, but aerobic exercise is crucial for maintaining brain tissue. The Gerontologist published research that found cardiovascular fitness is associated with the sparing of brain tissue and enhancing cognitive functioning in older adults. In addition, the release of growth hormone during exercise is known to increase the growth of new blood vessels in the brain while improving the abundance and survival of new brain cells.
There you have it -- use it or lose it.