What if I told you there’s one thing you can do right now to immediately improve your mood, energy, attention-span, and memory? What if I told you that this same activity could stave off depression and Alzheimer’s, and have a long-term impact on your brain health?
That one thing is simple: exercise. You already know how to do it, you can do it anywhere, and you can choose how! You can walk, run, ride a bike, swim, do yoga, garden, heck, you could even dance to Hakuna Matata while wearing a lion costume! Whatever! The point is: we have this amazing, free resource that’s always at our fingertips for improving the health of our brains.
Why is exercise so amazing for your noggin? Three reasons:
It provides IMMEDIATE benefits for the brain. It increases the neurotransmitters for the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin. (That’s why you experience that mood-boosting glow after a workout!) And a single exercise sesh can immediately improve your ability to focus for the next two hours.
Exercise provides LONG-TERM benefits for the brain. It produces new brain cells that actually increase brain volume. This, in turn, improves memory, our attention spans, and our long-term mood.
Exercise provides PROTECTION for the brain. The more you exercise, the bigger and stronger your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex get, which helps protect you against neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline.
It really is that simple. Get your sweat on, get that heart rate up TODAY. (Seriously, right now. Chop Chop. Lace up those walking shoes, chica.)
The areas of the brain that REALLY benefit:
Your entire brain benefits from a good workout, but today we’re going to focus on two: the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex.
The Hippocampus is the first to go when you develop Alzheimer’s. It’s responsible for making new memories: where did I put my car keys? Who visited yesterday? Where was I trying to drive to just now?
The hippocampus is also involved in mental illness. It shrinks during depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia. Keeping the hippocampus big and strong is essential for staving off mental health issues.
The Prefrontal Cortex, located right behind our foreheads, guides our thoughts, actions, decisions, and emotions. It’s the great emotional regulator. It inhibits inappropriate thoughts, distractions, actions, and feelings. It’s responsible for our executive functions.
These are pretty damn important abilities we have: to think, to decide, to regulate emotion, to remember. Exercise strengthens our brains so we can keep DOING these amazing things for years to come
How Much Exercise is Enough?
So here’s the bare minimum you need to move that amazing body of yours: 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes.
Make it easy on yourself by incorporating exercise into your daily life. Take the stairs. Park far away from the store. Get active on cleaning your house. Go on a 20-minute walk after you eat lunch.
The best thing about this? It’s free. You don’t need a fancy gym membership. All you need is to DO it. Whether it’s a series of jumping jacks in your living room, yoga with a friend, or walking your doggie down the street, you’ll feel better immediately afterwards. This one simple act can change the course of your life for the better.