Exercise Your Body, Improve Your Brain

Categories: Mental Wellbeing, Physically Active, Workplace Wellness

Your heart is not the only organ that benefits from regular physical activity; your brain is actually healthier the more you move!

While much of the research about exercise focuses on how it is good for your physical health — such as reducing the chances of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes — new research has shown that exercise also helps a very important organ in your body in addition to your heart and lungs: your brain!

According to a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers discovered that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is responsible for verbal memory and learning.

This research on the link between aerobic exercise and brain health is particularly relevant at a time when the following statistics about dementia raise alarm bells for the future of our aging population.

According to Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, professor of clinical neuropsychology at the Department of Psychiatry and Medical Research Council at the University of Cambridge reports that:

  • A new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally.
  • By the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide.

According to the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a peer-reviewed medical journal, “a rapidly growing literature strongly suggests that exercise, specifically aerobic exercise, may attenuate cognitive impairment and reduce dementia risk.”

But not only do older adults reap the brain boosting benefits of exercise. A study done at the Boston University Medical Center found that young adults (regardless of gender) who have greater aerobic fitness also have a greater volume of an area of the brain responsible for memory.

The studies on both older and younger adults show that regular exercise also improves mood and sleep, reducing stress and anxiety. This is important since these areas can cause or contribute to cognitive difficulties.

TEST IT OUT YOURSELF!

Now that you know exercise can improve your physical health, brain function, and fight off dementia it’s time to take action. Get moving!

So how much “exercise” do you need each day? The standard recommendation for physical activity is 30 minutes a day. However, there is no decreased benefit to breaking up your daily physical activity into smaller, more manageable doses. Think about taking three short 10 minutes walks to break up your work day.