Exercise is widely accepted to be good for your body. But did you know that there is Exercise To Build Your Brain? Sure, you can’t see your brain chemistry changing in the same way you can see your physique changing from exercise. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t incredible changes happening under the surface. In fact, regular exercise makes your brain sharper, stronger, and fitter.
If you’re an athlete, then you know that feeling of “runner’s high” – that exhilarating feeling during or after your workout that leaves you on Cloud 9. These mood-boosting chemicals are only part of the cascade of neurochemicals involved in exercise; the same chemicals proven to improve memory, focus, and literally increase the size of your brain.
Let’s review what happens to your brain during the course of a workout…
Exercise to Build Your Brain
The Warm Up
You’ve just finished stretching and have hit the pavement for a brisk walk. As your body heats up, your heart pumps blood into your arms and legs. But blood is also being rushed to your brain, drenching your neurons in glucose and oxygen. You can’t feel it, but your brain is soaking up those nutrients, the same ones that have been proven to increase your memory and reaction time.
The Cardio Workout
Time to pump up the intensity. Your heart rate rises, beads of sweat begin to form, you’re breathing becomes more labored. You’re tempted to slow, but now’s the time to stick with it. Your brain is releasing a cocktail of hormones, including the feel-good chemicals of serotonin and dopamine. You notice you are less tense and can think more clearly, which is great. But serotonin and dopamine have even more powerful long-term effects: they’re both key to the learning and attention processes.
- As you go along at a comfortably challenging rate, endorphins are bubbling to the surface. This surge of “feel-good” chemicals is responsible for the only part of the “runner’s high” that you’re experiencing.
- Endorphins are produced in response to discomfort, but endocannabinoids are produced in response to stress. Endocannabinoids generate a feeling of calmness.
- Can you feel your mind relaxing? Keep exercising. Another chemical called norepinephrine, which positively influences arousal, perception, and motivation, is surging through your body. Congratulations! You are toning your brain for learning new skills, understanding complicated concepts, and focusing on challenging tasks. Your hormones also interact with brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is important for learning and memory, and is involved with neuron growth and mood regulation.
- You’re getting these brain-boosting benefits every time you do an aerobic workout. If you exercise on a regular basis, the regular swell of blood and hormones leads to brain growth. That’s why we call it Exercise to Build Your Brain.
The Weight Training
As you reach for a set of dumbells, you’re thinking about toning your arms, but your brain is doing some heavy lifting too. Researchers have found that people who train with progressively heavier weights two to three times a year for one year possessed improved focus, attention and problem-solving. Of course, this is in addition to sculpted muscles and upgraded strength.
While your lifting, there’s a spike in serum insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels. It is a compound responsible for brain cell growth and cognitive performance. Meanwhile, there’s a reduction in homocysteine, a stress hormone that impairs thinking and increases risk of brain lesions and Alzheimers. The Cool Down Now that you’re heart is racing and your checks are flushed, it is time to wind down your workout with some gentle stretches. As your breathing slows, you’re still activating some powerful brain chemicals. As you reach from one side to the other, your brain is sending signals to help you keep your balance. Holding stretches is also known to increase levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, providing a mood lift and reducing anxiety.
So the next time you find you’re unable to concentrate, take a brisk walk or jump up and down. You’ll likely feel more alert, energized, and ready to focus. Get out there and exercise to build your brain!
Want to read more? This video about fasting while exercising is a game-changer.
Sources For This Article Include:
- http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/BDNF 5. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11932-005-0025-5#page-1