It’s a simple question that can bring a lot of different responses, right?
- You might say, “I feel great – had a checkup with the doctor yesterday and everything’s good.”
- Or, “I feel kinda crabby… Didn’t get much sleep last night.”
- Or even, “I feel tired and sore, and I can’t seem to concentrate.”
We’ve all heard the brain is just another muscle. And that the “mind-body” connection is crucial among top-tier athletes.
And it’s true. You know that physical fitness will help you enjoy life on your own terms longer, combatting high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and a whole range of physical health issues.
But it’s also good for your brain, memory, mental health, and mood.
Today, as we’re all coming out of a stressful time that has affected our physical and mental health, we should be re-establishing productive behavior patterns. It’s good for our bodies – and crucial for our brain and mental health.
That means exercise!
Many Examples Prove the Facts
Have you ever heard a jogger describe her “runner’s high” – a feeling of elation caused by her exercise?
Weightlifting also is good for our brain health. In fat, just about any exercise will get more blood flowing to the brain, which is crucial.
Some exercises – like dancing and boxing – strengthen the brain because they require steps to be repeated during the movement, which takes mental focus.
Just one exercise session can improve how our brains work and the part of memory that lets us recognize common information, according to a report from The Journal of International Neuropsychological Society.
“Exercise can have rapid effects on brain function and … lead to long-term improvements in how our brains operate and we remember,” The New York Times wrote about the study. Science is finding that adult brains can be malleable, “rewiring and reshaping themselves in various ways, depending on our lifestyles.”
Our brain’s memory centers can become more fit, the study suggests, “an analogy to what happens with muscles,” one doctor said.
Lowers Risk for Dementia
Another study found that physical activity improves cognition in older adults, even those with dementia, The National Institutes of Health reported.
“Encouraging evidence indicates that being more physically active is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a slower rate of cognitive decline in older adults,” the NIH said.
Professor Wendy Suzuki, an expert on brain science, agrees exercise can protect us from depression, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
“I am talking about the powerful effects of physical activity – that is, simply moving your body has immediate, long-lasting, and protective benefits for your brain that can last for the rest of your life,” she says.
If you’re concerned about brain and body health, speak with your doctor. We can help you smartly combine aerobic and strength training to make the biggest impact for your brain and body.
You don’t have to take up running or become a bodybuilder. Anyone can start feeling better right now.
Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.