We all know that exercise is good for us in many ways. However, besides the obvious, did you know that exercise can physically change our brains? That is incredible, don´t you think?
You might wonder, why would you want your brain changed? Well, don´t worry, it doesn´t change who you are. What it does is improve your cognitive abilities, make you happier, and make you work more efficiently, achieving your goals faster.
A single workout can improve your ability to shift and focus attention. That focus improvement will last for at least two hours. This is a short-term effect that you probably already know of. The long-term effects are much more interesting.
To start with, it can make you less anxious. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Crazy, right?! Exercising changes a chemical composition of your brain by releasing certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and acetylcholine. Without trying to take you back to your chemistry lesson, just take my word for it – these are the things that decrease anxiety better than any anti-depressant.
Secondly, regular physical activity makes your brain bigger. That´s right! It promotes the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus. Hippocampus is the thing that is responsible for our memory and learning skills. The more cells we have there, the easier it is to absorb information and form long-term memories.
Last but not least, exercise improves your prefrontal cortex. That´s the bit that significantly influences your attention, impulse inhibition, prospective memory, and cognitive flexibility. Imagine how much more you could do if you could focus for more extended periods of time or if you could catch a falling cup of coffee off the table before it hits the floor. That´s spiderman stuff I am talking about!
Lastly, all of the above protect us from Dementia, other neurodegenerative diseases, and normal cognitive decline in aging. This is not a magic pill. It will not cure the condition if you already have it, however, it can delay the symptoms by a very significant amount of time. The bigger and stronger your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are – the more chances you have to die before aging takes its toll on you.
Now, if you are patient and have read to this point – I will answer the main question that´s running through your brain right now. What is the bare minimum I need to do to reap the rewards? The answer is – I don´t know. Just kidding! Of course, I do. But I can´t write it here, because it all heavily depends on your age, activities, lifestyle, environment, mental and physical health, etc. As far as I am aware, scientists are trying to work out the perfect formula that would give you the correct answer every time. However, for now, you just need to ask a professional. Why? Because it is very easy in fitness to do the wrong thing and hurt yourself or get demotivated very fast.
If you are still in two minds about it, I will give you a general rule of thumb. Just please remember that it is very general, and you need to think for yourself. Exercise three to four times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Also, remember that you need to combine strength and cardio training to achieve the best results.
Got any questions? Get in touch! I am always here for you.
No questions? Stay tuned, and I´ll share more cool stuff about fitness with you!