Why Moving Your Body is Magic for Your Brain

November 04, 2023

exercise and neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin

When most fitness experts talk about the perks of exercise, they are apt to list things such as improved sleep, more energy, keeping extra pounds at bay, building stronger muscles, and increasing cardiovascular fitness. Yes, those benefits are all fantastic! But there's a major player in the room most experts are forgetting about: your brain.

Turns out, breaking a sweat is like a mini spa session for your gray matter. Let's dive into why a bit of movement can be a game-changer for your brain.

    Banish Those Blues Guess what? Moving about releases some feel-good substances in your brain. These include friendly compounds you might have heard of like the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Think of these compounds as a cozy, feel-good blanket for your brain, helping to protect your brain from depression. And the best part? It doesn’t take running a marathon or committing to hours of cardio. Just a quick 10 to 30-minute activity can give you that boost. You can opt for a pleasant walk, choose stairs over elevators, or even do a brisk march around your living room to get many of the same effects.

    Boost Your Focus -Have you ever felt super sharp after a workout? There's science behind that. Physical activity can amp up your ability to focus as well as switch between tasks. And this isn't about slogging along for hours at a time. Just a half-hour of heart-pumping activity can get you that razor-sharp focus for a couple of hours afterward. This could be anything that gets your heart rate up: a brisk run, a swim, cycling, or even some jump rope or jumping jack sessions. Plus, you'll get ninja-like reflexes to save that cup of coffee or tea from tumbling over!

    Hello, New Brain Cells! This one's a biggie. Exercise isn't just about sculpting your muscles; it's also about growing new brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis, especially in areas of your brain that are crucial for memory, like the hippocampus. Think of it like a plant sprouting new leaves. Also, exercise strengthens the connections between these brain cells, helping them to communicate with each other much more efficiently.

    A Shield Against Aging and Diseases - While your brain isn’t a muscle, it can help to visualize your brain as one. Just like a muscle, if you pump your brain up with workouts, it grows more resilient and stronger. Studies suggest that consistent exercise can actually beef up parts of your brain, making it less vulnerable to diseases like Alzheimer’s. So, while exercise might not be a magic potion against aging, it's like a protective shield slowing down the process. Think of consistent exercise sort of like investing in a lifelong insurance policy for your brain, minus the premiums!

    Reading all this might make you think you need to sign up for the next Olympics. But here's the good news: you don’t need to go to extremes. Even just three to four sessions composed of a 30-minute workout a week can do wonders. Aerobic exercises, which get your heart rate up and send more oxygen to your brain, are the stars here.

    If committing to around 2 hours a week seems too much, no worries. Start small. A walk around your neighborhood is great exercise. And if you are out of shape, start out slowly and gradually increase your pace as you grow more fit. Even dancing to your favorite song or vacuuming with gusto counts. Add a few minutes each week, and before you know it, you'll hit your goal. So, with all these fantastic brain benefits waiting, when will you lace up those sneakers and kickstart your brain boost?

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