It turns out that regular exercise isn’t just good for your muscles – it’s also good for your brain. Multiple scientific studies have revealed some amazing brain function benefits associated with regular exercise, so get up and get moving right away to improve everything from your memory to your self-esteem.
#1 – Exercise Prevents Cognitive Decline
As you age, your brain naturally becomes weaker. This is due to the lessened rate at which your body regenerates brain cells. A study performed on 638 people born in 1936 in Scotland showed that exercise won’t cure Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, but it can certainly reduce your risk – or even slow the progression. Those participants who were most active showed the least shrinkage in white brain matter, which makes up the hippocampus, the most important part of the brain for memory and learning.
#2 – Working Out Can Alleviate Anxiety
Anxiety is a common problem around the world, and many people turn to prescription medications or even relaxing activities to get some relief. However, a study conducted at the University of Southern Mississippi and published in Behavior Research and Therapy in 2004 showed that regular moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can improve brain function by reducing your susceptibility to anxiety. Essentially, it changes the way you react to everyday stressors in your life. Switching out that aromatherapy for a jogging session may be a good choice.
#3 – Short Sessions Can Facilitate Addiction Recovery
Regardless of the addiction – drugs, food, sex, or even gambling – the pleasure derived from that addiction is usually the result of a chemical called dopamine. A 2009 study published in Behavior Modification showed that short periods of moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can produce enough dopamine to lower addiction cravings, thus facilitating recovery. The more frequent the exercise bursts, the less likely the patients were to relapse.
#4 – Gym Sessions Improve Creativity
After an intense workout session, many people want nothing more than a hot shower and some rest. However, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 1997, those first couple post-workout hours might be better spent drawing, writing, painting, or even taking photographs. People who worked out intensely found that they felt far more creative in the two hours following their workouts than any other time due to the boost in brain function.
#5 – Exercise Makes Your Brain Bigger (Literally)
For irrefutable proof that exercise can boost brain function, consider a study published in the Journal of Gerontology in 2006. Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois focused on 59 healthy, sedentary people aged 60 to 79. Over the course of six months, some were asked to participate in aerobic training, and others were asked to participate in toning and stretching. Those who participated in aerobic training showed significant and measurable increases in brain volume, while those who participated only in toning and stretching did not. The more brain matter you have, the better your brain functions overall.
If you’ve been putting off exercising for whatever reason, the benefits to your overall brain function should get you moving. Exercising at moderate to high intensity on a regular basis can keep your mind sharp, help you feel better, and even improve your creativity.