We all know the physical benefits that come with exercise, from weight maintenance to stronger muscles. Working out, though, nourishes the body mentally as well. In fact, physical activity has a myriad of benefits when it comes to our brain health, ranging from improving learning and mental performance to preventing dementia, Alzheimer’s, and brain aging.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get at least two and a half hours of moderate cardio and two days of muscle strengthening every week. However, only 50 percent of adults aged 18 and over meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity compared to the 24 percent for muscle-strengthening activity, and 20 percent for both of these exercises. Regardless of age or fitness level, research has shown regular exercise does yield mental health benefits.
Fix.com, a lifestyle blog that brings expert content about everything in and around the home, visualized the many positive effects of exercise on the brain, in the infographic “Your Brain on Exercise.” Physical activity helps boost blood flow throughout the body, including the brain. This causes brain cells to become better at connecting with one another.
The effects of aerobic activity on the brain should not be overlooked. Aerobic training has been found to increase connectivity in the temporal lobe in a year, in a group of college-aged young adults by simply walking. Meanwhile, a more vigorous intensity aerobic exercise, like running for 30 minutes, led to faster reaction times and vocabulary learning. Women who were aged 65 and over were less likely to develop cognitive decline if they were physically active.
The mental benefits of exercise are not just for adults, but for kids, too. Exercise is crucial for kids’ developing brains. Those who get more exercise tend to get better grades, have better concentration, and even get a better night’s sleep.
Overall, the benefits of exercise provide neuroprotective benefits that tune up our brain health over the years. Physical activity becomes like a fertilizer for the brain, nourishing it to improve attention, memory, accuracy, and how we process information.
When we exercise we’re not only strengthening our bodies, but also our brain power.