Regular Exercise Boost Brain Health

Scientists know that a healthy diet and regular exercise are vital to maximize brain functioning. Regular aerobic exercise has been show to improve reaction time, speed of processing information, memory and attention. Aerobic exercise has even been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression and stress.

Recommended levels of physical activity include at minimum three weekly sessions of 20 minutes or more of aerobic activity that is intense enough to elevate the heart rate, and two to three days weekly of anaerobic activity (resistance training). Exactly how exercise benefits the brain is still a mystery, but it likely that there are multiple factors at work, For instance, until relatively recently, neuroscientists believed that adults never produced new brain cells, or neurons, the basic building blocks of the nervous system. It was thought that we were born with a set number of neurons that could not increase, and with age these neurons and other brain cells died off.

 

We now know that not only is the brain capable of creating new neurons, but there is evidence indicating that regular exercise stimulates this regeneration. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers of the brain. Unfortunately, the number we produce declines as we age. However, studies show that exercise appears to increase the production of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine.

These so-called “feel good” chemicals can have positive effects on thinking and mood, and the proper balance of these chemicals is crucial to maintaining a healthy brain. Another plus is the beneficial effect exercise can have on circulation. Proper blood flow is vital to both cellular waste removal and delivery of essential nutrients responsible for proper brain function, such as oxygen and glucose (blood sugar).

Diet and exercise have so many benefits including weight loss, respiratory improvement and stress relief. It only takes about 30 minutes a day of any cardio activity such as walking or jogging to get the heart rate pumping and circulation of blood flow. A balanced meal and regular exercise will stimulate the brain cells and you will be more alert and focused throughout the day.

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Margie Gilliam
Cox Newspapers