Ok, so no one really wants to get out of bed and hit the treadmill or go to the gym, but it’s a New Year’s resolution and you kind of promised yourself you wanted to get in shape and be healthy.
Of course, there’s no actual fountain of youth that you can drink from or magic potion that will grow your biceps and burn 15 pounds, but a steady exercise routine throughout the week could prove to be one of the best things you do for yourself, not only for your body but also for your brain.
Research in the area of cognitive ability and brain functionality points to a possible correlation between one’s mental youth so to speak and exercise.
Remember how you forget everything? No? Well it’s probably because you’re not getting enough exercise throughout the day. The hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory functions, responds well to cardiovascular and aerobic exercise.
In studies observing both children and adults researchers observed that the hippocampus enlarged as the participants became more fit. In similar studies, elders showed the same relationship between activity and brain structure changes.
However, short-term studies have also shown that increased activity can lead to better learning and memory functions. One German study looked at how participants learned a language. After steadily walking or cycling during foreign language learning, participants were actually able to better recall vocabulary words.
Everyone has those creative stumps, even the mathematicians among us often look for creative solutions to dynamic problems. While inactivity can lead to a one ended more concrete way of approaching problems, exercise has been shown to boost creativity when it comes to addressing specific issues.
Students at Stanford University aimed to test this hypothesis and strolled around the college campus. They then saw an increase in the number of free-roaming idea they had, and were better able to handle the academic related problems they had. Maybe it’s the beautiful California nature or the anxiety over finals, one thing is certain; steady walking helps calm the nerves and promotes creativity.
We don’t really think about things like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s but these are real degenerative conditions that many or prone to develop by the end of their lives. While the science is still a bit shaky on the matter, whether it’s a genetic condition or not, there is some research that points to dietary and exercise based basis by which people could develop these diseases.
Studies have shown that exercise will prolong if not hinder the development of dementia. It’s not as if you have to go kill yourself in the gym, 30 to 40 minutes of walking only three to four times a week can significantly help battle against mental wearing. In fact, it’s not only the aerobic exercises that count. Studies observing balance, resistance or weight training exercise and yoga have shown similar results.
One study observing German elderly who practiced yoga, lifted weights in static positions, and went dancing even twice a week saw increased neurological connections. This was something of a discovery as it was previously thought people at this age could no longer build newer and stronger cognitive structures with such a neurological impact.
Exercise reduces insulin resistance and inflammation, which is the root cause of many health problems.
One of exercises greatest gifts for brain health is the stimulation of growth factors that promote brain cell health. Furthermore, regular exercise promotes new blood vessel growth, and supports growth and survival of new brain cells.
Lastly, exercise helps increase oxygen levels to the brain, which helps to improve mental performance, slow rate of fatigue, improves overall brain function, enhances motor skills and stimulates better blood flow throughout the body.
Indirectly, exercise deals with problems that contribute to cognitive impairment, by boosting mood, promoting better sleep, reducing stress and lowering anxiety.
It’s really not about what you do but that you are doing something. Seriously, all it takes is a half an hour walk through a park. Not only will you feel significantly better but also you can actually alter your brain structure and function helping you remember information for a test or avoid developing degenerative memory brain conditions.
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