Exercise feeds your brain

Ever feel like you could use a few more brain cells? Or wish you could do something to enrich and protect the ones you’ve got? You can — whether you’re 9 or 90 years old — by making exercise an integral part of your everyday life. An increasing body of research provides evidence of the positive effect of regular exercise on improved brain function and protection against cognitive impairment at any age.

Exercise Prevents Brain Shrinkage: People who exercise regularly have

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more grey matter in their brain than those who don’t or are irregular. Grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, and speech. This increased grey matter improves your cognitive function and lowers your risk for cognitive decline. Regular exercise halves the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia! What could be more important than protecting yourself from these devastating conditions?

Exercise Enhances Brain Plasticity: What is Brain Plasticity? It is the brain’s ability to process, understand, and learn from new experiences and everyday encounters. Brain plasticity is vital for acquiring and using knowledge and skills, and for adapting to changing environments and circumstances. Exercise has a positive effect on brain plasticity, with even moderate, but regular exercise remarkably improving brain plasticity.

Exercise Promotes Learning: According to Dr. John J. Ratey, author of ‘Spark – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain’ (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008), exercise floods the brain with a substance called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF), which helps new brain cells sprout, grow, and thrive. A major outcome of this brain cell cultivation is an enhanced ability to learn — and learn at a faster rate. So, people who exercise learn faster and are quicker in applying new learning than those who don’t. It’s not surprising that a number of studies have linked physical activity levels with children’s success in school. A recent study of 3rd to 5th graders (9 – 11 years old) found that aerobic fitness was positively associated with overall academic achievement, reading achievement, and math achievement (Parents, this should be reason enough to get your kids moving!)

A sedentary lifestyle does more than contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. It is, quite literally, a brain-snatcher. It robs you of the cognitive health you need to be at your sharpest now and maintain your quality of life as you get older. Give yourself, and the people you love, a priceless gift – exercise regularly to keep your brain in good working order.

Feed your brain with these activities: 1) Climb the stairs and give the elevator a miss; 2) try a new sport or fitness activity; 3) change your exercise regularly with new activities, routes, and formats; 4) do mentally-challenging activities like dancing, rock climbing or racquet sports; 5) perform balance exercises after your cardio routine; 6) be a kid – play, wrestle, jump and run around with your kids; 7) walk or ride your bicycle to work/school.

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