Exercise and the Brain
December 3, 2020
Exercise benefits every aspect of our health. It works for weight management, boosts energy, and builds a healthier heart (not to mention you’ll look better and have more confidence.)
But exercise benefits more than just the body; it’s good for the brain and improves cognitive function; a fit body generally leads to a fitter mind.
Coping with Daily Stress
Consider the stresses of daily life and its distractions, such as annoying phone alerts that never seem to stop chirping, or construction and traffic noise, and the endless onslaught of commercials and marketing, all competing for your mind’s limited bandwidth. It’s exhausting.
Turns out, exercise is a great coping strategy for dealing with mental stress and distractions because it recharges your mind.
Researchers divided students into three groups to measure the effect of exercise on attention span. One group did two twenty-minute moderate exercise sessions between morning classes; another group performed one twenty minute exercise session. The third group didn’t do anything – they just sat in their chairs while the others exercised.
The students who did two exercise sessions scored highest on attention span.
It Doesn’t Take Much
It seems that even a little bit of exercise is healthy for the mind. A 2007 research project involving students studied the ability of exercise to improve focus and concentration. Students with at least 56 hours of physical activity each school year had higher scores than their counterparts who only had 28 hours of exercise.
Physical activity should be an essential part of the educational experience. Usually, exercise proponents cite student obesity and diabetes rates for the inclusion of exercise. However, it’s cognitive benefits are equally important.
How Exercise Works Its Magic
Here’s how physical activity sharpens the mind. During exercise, a chemical called BDNF is released into the brain. BDNF nourishes brain cells and facilitates the formation of new neural pathways.
In addition to releasing BDNF, regular exercise boosts norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter, resulting in a heightened state of alertness, increased energy, and sharper concentration.
Physical activity helps us thrive mentally and physically; we’re designed to move! Without exercise, many important physiological and cognitive functions suffer. The benefits of physical activity are essential to protecting and maintaining quality of life.
So, if you’d like to rise above the constant onslaught of never-ending distractions while strengthening your mind and body, get moving! Give yourself the gift of physical activity.