Published on: December 9, 2013
by The Florida Times-Union:
Most people know exercise has positive effects on our physical health, such as improving our bone density and reducing our chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers.
But here’s another reason to make a jog part of your morning routine or to hit the gym after work: exercise boosts brain health and cognitive functioning.
Cognition is your brain’s ability to acquire and process knowledge, and it involves such things as thinking, remembering, judging, learning, imagination and problem-solving. It appears that exercise helps our brain power across our entire lifespan — from young children to older adults.
For children, exercising can help improve scores on academic achievement tests. So playing tag and jumping rope before a test may help kids get a better grade. Physical activity can also reduce students’ fidgeting and disruptive classroom behaviors.
For adults, exercise has been shown to improve attention, memory, processing speed and executive function. Faster processing speed — the speed at which your brain processes information — means more efficient thinking and learning. Executive functioning is your ability to organize thoughts and activities, prioritize tasks, manage time efficiently and make decisions.
In later life, exercise may help reduce the development of mild cognitive impairment, a condition in which a person has trouble with memory, language and other cognitive functions. Mild cognitive impairment may progress to dementia, a more serious form of cognitive impairment that can drastically affect people’s independence and ability to function.
So how does hitting the gym translate to a better brain? While the connection between push-ups and the brain is not fully understood, exercise could jump-start neurogenesis (new nerve cell generation in the brain).
Also, when you exercise, your blood pressure and blood flow shoot up across your body, brain included. Healthy blood flow brings oxygen to your brain and helps wash away brain metabolic wastes.
Also, around late adulthood, a part of the brain called the hippocampus begins to shrink, leading to impaired memory and an increased risk for dementia. Exercise may help prevent such loss by slowing and even reversing the shrinkage.
It appears that exercise is not only good for our heart, but also for our brain. Maybe this will motivate people to hit the gym to bulk up both their body and their brain.
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