Most of us hit the gym because we want trim tummies or bulging biceps. But did you know that exercise causes more than just physical changes in your body, but hormonal and chemical ones as well? Here are just three of the incredible ways that working out improves your brain health:
Brain Building (Literally!)
As we age, production of new brain cells slows down, effectively shrinking our brain tissue. Recent studies have shown that aerobic exercise can actually reverse those effects. One of these studies examined a group of people aged 60 to 79 and showed significant increases in brain volume after six months of aerobic fitness training. This could be due to the chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, that stimulates the growth and proliferation of brain cells. This chemical is mostly found in the hippocampus, the brain region that is largely responsible for memory. Exercise has been found to boost production of BDNF.
Chemical depression affects memory, concentration, and our decision making skills. This is because it actually slows the brain’s ability to process information. Exercise can help to negate some of these effects as it increases production of serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. All of these hormones contribute to positive and happy feelings. That’s why you will often hear people talking about a phenomenon known as the “runner’s high”. It’s important to mention that exercise is not a replacement for anti-depressants prescribed by your doctor. Rather, it can be used as a supplement to your medication, or as a mood-booster in milder cases.
Increases Insulin Sensitivity
Glucose, otherwise known as blood sugar, is the main source of fuel for our bodies. The thing about glucose though, is that it must be accompanied by the hormone insulin in order to enter our cells. In some people, cells become resistant to insulin and their bodies overcompensate by pumping out more, ultimately resulting in type 2 diabetes. Even if your body falls short of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance is bad for your brain. Memory and concentration will be adversely affected. Combatting this with regular exercise, however, can increase your insulin sensitivity and allow your body to process glucose properly.
Working out is good for every muscle in your body, including your brain! Regular exercise will help you function at your best and set you up for success. If you’re ready to give your brain a boost, sign up for one of our bootcamps and we will help set you on the right track!