How Exercising Improves Brain Functioning

by Mila Jones 11 months ago in mental health

Can Your Workouts Keep Your Brain Active?

How Exercising Improves Brain Functioning

Regular workouts are proven to be beneficial to the body. But did you know that they have an equally fascinating impact on the brain as well? As per Dr. Erin Reynolds, the Clinical Director of the Baylor Scott & White Sports Concussion Program at The Star in Frisco, Texas, exercising helps in regulating hormones and chemicals within the brain. As an outcome, the person experiences a better mood and higher quality of sleep, thus leading to overall brain health.

Here are a few interesting benefits your brain obtains thanks to your commitment to a gym membership:

Get the feeling of zen

Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine —these aren’t just mere hormones and chemicals. When they are released by the brain, they have an amazing impact on the entire body. And how do you ensure better secretion of these chemicals? Simple: Indulge in an hour of sweat-inducing workouts.

These mood booster chemicals and hormones flood your brain for almost a couple of hours after you have done a workout session at a fitness studio. It helps you banish stress and its harmful effects.

Improves alertness

Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that a lot can be done to avoid cognitive decline, or slow it down. One key strategy is regular, moderately intense exercise.

Regular workouts also stimulate brain regions concerned with memory function. This is done by releasing a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF reconfigures the memory circuits so they perform to a better degree. 

Encourages brain growth

Regular workouts are known to spur the growth of brain cells. It is a known fact that with aging, the birth of new brain cells slows down. However, with attention to fitness, it is possible to reverse this trend. A brain-scanning study showed that this is actually a fact. Fifty-nine respondents, aged between 60 to 79 with sedentary lifestyles, were chosen for this study carried over 6 months. In this duration, they indulged in aerobic fitness training.

The brain scan images before and after the study saw a considerable increase in both the grey matter and the white matter of the brain cells for these people. This shows that in older people, the more you remain active, the better your brain cells are in terms of volume.

Brings down the effects of stress

Cortisol is a stress hormone associated with accelerated aging. Its effects include haphazard thinking and increased bouts of forgetfulness. The production of new nerve cells in the hippocampal dentate gyrus area of the brain (associated with the creation of new memories) is impacted with rising stress levels.

Exercise ensures lower production of the hormone. With lower production, you can be assured that you will think properly again, and reduce the bouts of forgetfulness you face. Also, you can remember better, as the dentate gyrus area of the brain is not severely impacted by stress.

Better insulin sensitivity

Food intake results in glucose production—a much needed fuel for the body and brain. For this to happen, the glucose needs a hormone insulin (made by the pancreas) to be used or to be stored. Insulin is the key that unlocks the cell to allow glucose to enter it and be used for energy. It helps regulate blood sugar level and thus keep it within the normal range.

As blood sugar rises, the pancreas secretes more insulin. In case adequate insulin is not secreted or if the cells become resistant to glucose, the glucose in the blood will rise as it cannot enter the cells for use. This will flood the brain cells with glucose. As a result, it will impair the memory and thinking aspect of the brain.

Regular exercise increases insulin sensitivity, thus helping to stabilise blood sugar levels. The more you control blood sugar with workouts, the lower will be the risk of age-related cognitive deterioration.

A great anti-depressant

People suffering from depression can take note of this—exercise can be a great anti-depressant. Regular workouts can provide as many benefits as an anti-depressant drug in case of moderate forms of depression.

As Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School points out, exercise spurs nerve cell growth in the hippocampus region (associated with mood). This encourages nerve cell connections, and in turn, brings down the feeling of depression.

A sleep partner

Physical activity in the form of fitness workouts at a gym will promote the time spent in deep sleep—the most restorative form of sleep. With good quality sleep, the brain too feels rejuvenated and ready to take on the challenges of the next day. With irregular sleep, the brain may remain feeling stressed and overloaded.

Workouts help make one feel tired physically and ready for a rest at night. Also, the level of stress associated with sleep disorder goes down. With this, the quality of sleep improves. This, in turn, boosts brain health.

Improved cognitive functioning

The executive functioning of the brain (also known as cognitive capabilities) improve substantially when you indulge in workouts. Studies have shown that those who indulged in workouts have reported four times better performance on cognitive tests than those who didn’t.

You don’t need to get into high intensity exercises to see the benefits. Just moderate workouts carried out on a sustained for six months and longer are enough to show the results on this front.

To sign off

This shows how exercising your glutes can boost your grey matter health. After looking at these advantages, you would definitely want to take up a gym membership and should check out some important points before joining a fitness classes to boost your physical and mental health.

We are sure that once you know these immense benefits exercising has on the brain, you will never look at going to the gym the same way ever again.

mental health
Mila Jones
Mila Jones
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Mila Jones

Mila Jones is a Senior Business Consultant, with rich experience in the domains of technology consulting and strategy, she works with both established technology brands and market entrants to offer research inputs.

See all posts by Mila Jones