In general, anything that is good for your heart is also great for your brain. Exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills. We all know that exercise keeps our bodies physically fit and feeling good. Ever heard of the “runner’s high”? It’s the endorphin rush that follows intense exercise that makes you feel elated. And what about yoga’s ability to turn on our body’s “relaxation response,” reducing our stress levels? In fact, brain scans have shown how these activities have shown shrinkage of part of the amygdala, a deep-brain structure that is linked to how we process anxiety, stress, and fear.
And while we feel energized and younger, does regular exercise have an effect on our cognitive function as we age?
According to a published article by Advances in Physiology Education, “Exercise may be one strategy to prevent or delay cognitive decline.”
And based on a study published in the journal Neurology, physical activity can slow brain aging by as much as 10 years. These findings were discovered after researchers interviewed 1,228 men and women from diverse racial backgrounds. Beyond their regular exercise habits, they were tested on their cognitive abilities such as thinking speed, reasoning, and memory. About half the group performed the same tests 5 years later.
The results were clear. Those who had reported they exercised regularly showed higher cognitive test scores. While the study doesn’t prove that exercise can reverse higher level thinking skills, it does suggest that physical activity may help people who suffer from blood flow issues to the brain maintain their cognitive status.
How does regular exercise change the brain?
Scientists have observed how the brains structure grows as people get more exercise. The hippocampus if the core of the brain’s learning and memory systems. And with improved cardiovascular fitness, it gives it a boost, improving the brain’s functions such as memory. Beyond memory, regular exercise helps us stay focused. This improvement in concentration allows us to ignore distractions, hold information in our minds better, and multitask.
However, it’s been observed that its regular aerobic exercise that boosts the size of the hippocampus in a way that resistance training and muscle toning exercises cannot. This means that the best form of exercise to improve the brain’s functions as we age are the ones that get our hearts and circulation pumping.
The link between aerobic fitness and cognitive preservation is compelling and clear. As we age, regular aerobic fitness can help delay the onset of dementia as it fends off the brain’s wear and tear. Researchers believe that aerobic exercise surges growth hormones and expands the brain’s network of blood vessels thanks to the increased blood flow to the brain, leading scientists to believe that exercise may be stimulating the birth of new neurons.
Vitamin D and Your Brain.
While good for the bones, vitamin D is one of the catalysts in the brain that turns on and off the neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth systems. When your vitamin D levels are low, your ability to keep and form new neuro-connections is inhibited.
Vitamin D is one the nutrients that many people may need to supplement for. In healthy people, 15-30 minutes of sunlight exposure to over 25% or more of the body is essential to produce vitamin D for a day. Foods like mushrooms are also rich in vitamin D. Learn more about Vitamin D And Your Heath Get your daily dose of Vitamin D in the Sano Wellness Pack here.
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