Train Your Brain with Exercise
Tracy Lightburne MS, CPT, CWC
Do you ever walk into a room and can’t remember the reason why you walked in there? Have you ever read the same paragraph in a book five times before focusing and comprehending the material? If so, it might be time to adopt a consistent exercise routine. Research has shown that there’s no medicine or other intervention as effective in maintaining or even improving a person’s cognitive capabilities as exercise.
There are so many reasons why cardiovascular exercise is good for the brain, here are just a few.
- Exercise increases circulation to the brain, therefore providing it with more oxygen and glucose (its ONLY fuel source).
- Exercise increases brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is known as “brain fertilizer” (Oh yes, you want more of this good stuff!) BDNF helps the brain develop new connections, repairs failing brain cells and protects healthy brain cells.
- In the same way that cardiovascular exercises reduces plaque in the arteries, it also reduces plaque buildup in the brain (which may help slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dramatically decrease your chance of stroke).
Don’t be mistaken and think that you need to run 6 miles a day to receive the health benefits to the brain. Science tells us that walking is one of the best modes of exercise you can partake in for brain health (a brisk walk, not a leisurely stroll). 30 minutes of walking at least 3 days per week will put you on track to a healthy brain. Dance classes are also a great choice for brain health because it incorporates coordination along with cardiovascular exercise. But really, any type of exercise that you enjoy will do wonders for your brain.
So, what if you hate exercise?
I’m not asking you to LOVE exercise, but you can learn to “have a crush” on it. If your motivation for incorporating exercise into your life has always been, “I should” or “I need to lose weight”, then you probably aren’t going to enjoy it, or make it a lasting behavioral change – it feels like a chore. But, if you have emotional relevance around caring for your brain, then that will motivate you to stick with exercise for life, and learn to enjoy it.
I personally make exercise a top priority because it helps me feel like I can react more positively to day-to-day stressors; to be a better employee, mother and wife. I believe there is a major difference in my attitude and thoughts on the days I exercise vs. the days I don’t. That is my emotional relevance around exercise.
Find what will emotionally allow you to start to “have a crush” on exercise. When you do, you are much more likely to be successful. If you are feeling stressed at work, go out for a 15 minute walk. You will feel much more focused, creative and productive when you return. The feel-good hormones that are released during a bout of exercise (Endorphins, Serotonin, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine) might lead you to eventually have that crush on exercise!
Research consistently shows that exercisers outperform inactive folks in long term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving and intelligence. So what are you waiting for? The best way to get something done is to BEGIN!! Don’t just be a bystander and let your health pass you by! Quoted by Michael Treanor, “Exercise not only tones the muscles, but also refines the brain and revives the soul.”
Want to learn more? Read about 6 Ways Exercise Makes Your Brain Better