Can exercise make you smarter?

There are a large number of benefits to exercise, but one lesser known benefit is the positive effect on our brain.  Did you know exercise can:
  • Reduce stress,
  • Reduce or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease,
  • Help protect brain nerve cells.
Reduce stress: Exercising is a natural anti-depressant.
  • “It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.
  • It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything that you do.
  • It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All this can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.” (Mayo Clinic, Stress Management)
Reduce or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease: ”Through the past several years, population studies have suggested that exercise which raises your heart rate for at least 30 minutes several times a week can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. Physical activity appears to inhibit Alzheimer’s-like brain changes in mice, slowing the development of a key feature of the disease.” (Mayo Clinic, Preventing Alzheimer’s)
Help protect brain nerve cells: While exercising, we are improving the heart’s ability to pump blood more effectively, as well as increasing the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity. Obviously this includes the blood flow to and from your brain as well.  Immediately after strenuous activity, such as exercise, the body contains significantly higher levels of a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which is known to promote the health of nerve cells. (The New York Times, How Exercise Benefits the Brain) This includes nerve cells in your brain. So go ahead and promote the health of your nerve cells! (Translation: Go exercise!)
Exercising is not simply for your physique, it’s for your health.  It is needed by every part of your body, especially your mind. Whether you use it to de-stress or to keep your mind sharp, exercise is important. So get out there and MOVE IT, MOVE IT!!

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