In an upcoming article by Lynn Allison for Healthy Living, NEWSMAX MAXLIFE Newsletter, Neurosurgeon and Wellness Expert, Dr. Joseph Maroon, was asked to contribute to the a list of 12 of the worst/best brain health tips. Dr. Maroon discussed sedentary lifestyle as one of the worst things you can do that can significantly reduce your brain health.
Dr. Maroon’s response: “use it or lose it” adage applies not only to our bodies but also to our brains. “Exercise is essential to keep both in peak performance,” he says. “Chemicals are emitted by exercising the muscles that result in the release of very important growth factors in the brain. “Exercise is the ‘fertilizer’ for the formation of new brain cells, new synaptic connections, and neuroplasticity.”
Exercise offers numerous benefits for brain health. Regular physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on cognitive function, mental well-being, and overall brain health. Here are some of the key benefits of exercise for the brain:
Improved Cognitive Function: Exercise can enhance various aspects of cognitive function, including memory, attention, and executive function. It promotes the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) and strengthens existing neural connections, which can improve overall brain function.
Enhanced Learning and Memory: Physical activity has been linked to improved learning and memory. It can help with information retention and the ability to recall facts and details, which is beneficial for both academic and daily life activities.
Stress Reduction: Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Regular physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve overall mental well-being.
Mood Regulation: Physical activity is associated with a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety. It can help regulate mood by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
Increased Brain Plasticity: Exercise supports brain plasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself in response to learning, experience, and injury. This can be particularly important for recovering from brain injuries or age-related cognitive decline.
Reduced Risk of Neurodegenerative Diseases: Regular exercise is linked to a lower risk of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It can help protect the brain from age-related damage and maintain cognitive function as you age.
Better Blood Flow: Exercise promotes improved blood flow, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the brain. This enhanced circulation is essential for maintaining brain health and preventing cognitive decline.
Enhanced Sleep: Physical activity can improve the quality and duration of sleep. A well-rested brain is better equipped to perform cognitive tasks, regulate emotions, and manage stress.
Increased Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF): Exercise stimulates the release of BDNF, a protein that supports the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons. Higher levels of BDNF are associated with better cognitive function and a reduced risk of neurological disorders.
Improved Attention and Focus: Regular exercise can enhance attention and concentration. It helps individuals stay more alert and focused, which can be beneficial for tasks that require sustained attention.
Social Interaction: Some forms of exercise, such as team sports or group fitness classes, provide opportunities for social interaction, which can contribute to better mental health and cognitive well-being.
To maximize the brain health benefits of exercise, it’s recommended to engage in regular physical activity that includes a combination of aerobic exercise (such as walking, jogging, or swimming) and strength training. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week.
Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have underlying medical conditions.