The Lesser Known Benefits Of Exercise
We all know that exercise comes with many benefits to our health. However, there are some benefits that come with exercise that is often not discussed, particularly benefits associated with brain health.
When you engage in physical activity, you tend to breathe more deeply, and your body and brain become more energized. This deeper breathing serves to oxygenate the cells throughout the body. Moreover, exercise has also been shown to improve neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s capacity to adapt and change as a result of growth from prior experience.
Consistent exercise provides the brain health benefits in other facets as well. One of these is a decreased chance of developing dementia. Other benefits include more flexible thinking, improved emotional regulation, and a better ability to switch between tasks. In general, regular exercise brings about a higher-functioning brain.
Different Types of Exercise Benefit Specific Brain Areas and Functions
Walking and Aerobic Exercise for Memory, Learning, and Emotions
Aerobic exercises such as walking have been shown to influence the hippocampus and even result in volume growth. The hippocampus is the region of the brain associated with emotional control, memory, and learning.
Hand-Eye Coordination Activities for Social and Emotional Well-Being
Engaging in any exercise that challenges hand-eye coordination ability can increase the overall thickness of the brain in areas associated with social-emotional well-being. Moreover, participating in these activities that also come with a social element, such as dance or table tennis, does even more in improving certain parts of the cortex.
Boxing to Melt Away Stress
One of the best mind-body exercises to engage in is boxing. This is a cardio exercise that can do wonders in reducing stress.
One study revealed that exercise also helps grow new brain cells. Researchers from the University of Texas looked at the relationship between exercise and a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).
BDNF functions to support the growth of new nerve cells and is involved in mood regulation, brain cell repair, and cognitive functions such as learning and memory.
Moreover, insufficient levels of BDNF can heighten one’s chance of developing a plethora of mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.
In the study, it was also found that adults who participated in high-intensity exercise had improvements in their cognitive function along with higher BDNF levels. It was further found that more BDNF would be released when engaging in exercise that one was excited to do. It should therefore be known that one’s intention and attitude towards working out plays a role in affecting the brain’s activity as well.
Air Quality Matters
The quality of the air is another factor that is often overlooked in conversations surrounding exercise. Factoring in air quality can be a burden that most of you may want to ignore. It is understandable that there are certain situations where air quality cannot be personally controlled. This is particularly the case if you live in a densely populated city with lots of pollution.
That being said, air quality is a factor that should not be ignored—especially when it comes to exercise. Exercising in poor air conditions can decrease the amount of BDNF that is secreted. Moreover, this means that the promotion of new cell growth is inhibited along with the development of more neuroplasticity.
As previously mentioned, exercising causes us to breathe deeply, which is why it is going to be important to be mindful of the air quality that you exercise in. You want to make sure that you try and find places to exercise that aren’t overly polluted. This may mean running on a treadmill instead of around the block on the busy road. Whatever your situation is, understand that air quality matters, and is something worth taking into consideration when it comes to exercising.