Exercise regularly is one of the best natural medicines to strengthen the brain and its functions. Below, we will see how our mind is able to benefit from exercise despite the passing of years.
Exercise stimulates brain growth – As you get older, the birth of new brain cells tends to slow down, with a consequent shrinkage of brain tissue. Movement can be a fundamental help that can slow down or even reverse this process. According to a research published in November 2006 in the journal The Journals of Gerontology, the brains of a group of healthy people but with a sedentary lifestyle between the ages of 60 and 79 years showed a significant increase in volume after six months of aerobic training. These improvements, however, have not been achieved among those who have only done stretching and toning exercises. Researchers concluded that aerobic cardiovascular exercise can effectively counter brain aging in elderly people. The cardio activity increases the oxygen supply to the brain, an essential component for your health given that it requires about 20 percent of the oxygen present in the body.
Physical activity improves the executive functions of the mind
Executive functions are essentially represented by the individual’s cognitive abilities, such as being able to focus on complex tasks, organize, think abstractly, plan future events, problem solving, and so on. In a study in Psychological Science, researchers tried to analyse the effects of exercise on the executive functions of adults aged 55-80 years. Individuals who have practiced physical activity regularly have shown four times better results in cognitive tests than control groups who have not performed physical exercises. The positive effects were greater in those who have practiced physical activity for 30-45 minutes per session for a period of six months, but substantial benefits have also been observed after only four weeks.
Physical activity fights depression and anxiety
Depression slows down the brain’s ability to process information, makes concentration and decision-making more difficult, and causes memory problems. In cases of severe depression, a specialist should be consulted, who will prescribe antidepressants. For mild cases of depression instead exercise can help a lot to improve mood. Moderate physical activity, in fact stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters essential for mood regulation. In addition, movement increases the levels of endorphins, substances produced by the brain that contribute to relaxation.
Exercise increases the production of neurotrophins
The neurotrophin, known as a neurotrophic factor cerebral or BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor), stimulates the growth and proliferation of brain cells. This happens especially in the hippocampus, the brain region that is largely responsible for memory and is particularly vulnerable to a decline caused by the advance of age. The higher the training, the better the production and availability of the BDNF.
Exercise reduces the effects of stress
Cortisol, commonly called stress hormone, is one of the causes of aging of the brain. Stress is actually one of the worst enemies of our entire organism. Exercise helps to lower cortisol levels, also helping to improve brain functions.
Physical activity increases insulin sensitivity
When you eat, the human body converts most food into glucose, the main source of fuel for the body, including the brain. In order for glucose to enter cells, it must be accompanied by insulin. Unfortunately, in some people, cells become insulin resistant. The body therefore needs more and more, but blood sugar levels still continue to rise, leading in most cases to suffer from Type 2 diabetes. Even if type 2 diabetes does not develop, insulin resistance is still bad for the brain. When brain cells are flooded with glucose, memory can suffer negatively. However, regular physical exercise may effectively impede insulin resistance. In fact, insulin sensitivity increases, stabilising blood glucose after eating, for at least 16 hours after each individual exercise session. The better the control of sugar in the blood, the greater the protection against the cognitive decline linked to age.