Star's Corner

Star’s Corner: Mental Fitness – The Benefits of Exercise for your Brain

Cork, Ireland
Some people exercise to lose weight, tone their bodies or build their biceps. Some exercise to prevent serious health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It’s very apparent that exercise is good for your body—but did you know that it’s also good for your brain?

Studies show that physical activity improves brain health and cognitive function at any age. The average recommendation is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week. When you think about it, you’re probably already doing some of that physical activity in your daily living such as climbing the stairs, mopping the floor or anything that gets your heart pumping and pushes you to break a sweat.

Here are some scientifically proven ways that exercise benefits your brain:

Exercise Reduces Stress
From aerobics to yoga, exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. When you’re physically active, your body produces endorphins, which naturally makes you feel good. Running on the treadmill for 30 minutes can decrease tension and increase your levels of “soothing” brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Even just five minutes of aerobic exercise can elevate or stabilize mood and improve sleep and self-esteem—all the more reason not to skip your workout!

Exercise is Medicinal
Just a spoonful of exercise is medicine for the mind. In fact, experts at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center created clinical guidelines for the necessary exercise “dose” for patients with major depressive disorder. The physical fitness repertoire includes aerobics (e.g., running, biking, walking) and resistance training (e.g., weight lifting). Of course, if you’re experiencing depressive symptoms, discuss exercise treatment and other medical options with your clinician.

Exercise is Good for Your Future
It’s never too early to think about what our brains will look like in our golden years. It’s been medically proven that exercise increases your cognitive reserve, preventing cerebral decline and memory loss. According to the Alzheimer’s Research Center (ARC), exercise is one of the best weapons against the disease. Studies have shown that older people who stick to the average recommendation (mentioned above) had nearly 40% lower risk of dementia.

Exercise Improves Learning Function
It’s a chemical reaction! Exercise increases brain chemicals called growth factors, which create new brain cells and connections in the brain that help us learn. Physically intricate activities such as tennis and dancing provide the biggest brain boost because they involve coordination, and it enhances attention and improves concentration skills. The experts say that focused resistance workouts can help in avoiding distractions in other areas of your life and cardio workouts can improve your ability to carry out multiple tasks for long periods of time. Your best bet is to fit both types of physical exercise into your life to improve your overall mental fitness.

Tread forward, ladies and be MINDful of every step you take on the road to success!

We want to hear from you. How do you balance work and exercise? Share your fitness routine with us below.

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Megan Bozzuto

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