Brain-Boosting Effects of Exercise

Brain-Boosting Effects of Exercise

Posted By Vernon B. Williams, MD || 25-Feb-2016

4 Brain Boosting Benefits of Exercise

Though I care for the neurological needs of a wide range of professional, collegiate and youth-level athletes, I’ve seen first-hand the incredible benefits that even the slightest amount of regimented exercise can have on ANYONE. Although medications can play an important role in pain and disease management, they have their limitations. And with a mounting crisis in prescription drug and opiate usage, we as a clinical community must look at other ways to help patients boost the quality of their lives. Here are four key brain-boosting areas that research has shown to be benefitted significantly by exercise:

Mood – Let’s face it – our mood and overall outlook on life affects every aspect of our daily living. Sometimes, a bad day can leave us feeling frustrated and unsuccessful. But have you ever engaged in a heart-pumping sweat session after a rough day? How did you feel afterwards? For most people, even just a few moments of moderate cardiovascular exercise (think a jog, bike ride, aerobics class) is mood-enhancing. And there’s plenty of research out there indicating a strong correlation between even just five minutes of exercise and a positive effect on mood. What’s more, some studies have shown that a consistent exercise program, prescribed as part of a patient’s treatment plan, can have major benefits in the reduction of depression symptoms in some patients.

Memory – Globally, the effects of memory-damaging diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s are devastating. In fact, some researchers estimate that more than 100 million people worldwide will be diagnosed with dementia by the year 2050. But there is hope. One study has found that regular aerobic exercise may increase the size of the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for learning and verbal memory. And these benefits aren’t for senior citizens alone. In short, exercise can change the brain for the better and by doing so; can help to protect thinking skills and memory in ANYBODY.

Performance – When it comes to many areas of life – we’re a society in search of the “magic bullet” – some THING to make us better at whatever it is we’re pursuing at the moment. Did you know that certain types of exercise have shown to not only enhance the physical, but also mental performance? It’s true. Generally speaking, any type of exercise that is good for your heart is also good for your brain. But some exercises that have the greatest impact on both tend to focus on coordination, rhythm and strategy. Dance classes are one example of this, but there are many others.

Pain Management – I’ve saved this one for last mostly because it has the greatest potential to enhance, and maybe even save lives. For people who suffer from chronic pain, life can seem like an endless cycle of medication therapies that frequently need to be readjusted in order to remain effective. But one study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise says that regular exercise can positively change the way a person experiences pain. In short, the longer we continue to work out, the stronger a pain tolerance we can create for ourselves. Those endorphin chemicals that the body releases during exercise are in fact a “natural opiate” or painkiller. So even a moderate amount of exercise can change our perception of pain – and for longer than the short duration of time we’re performing it. This can have a huge impact on quality of life for people dealing with chronic pain, perhaps returning them to some daily living activities that were otherwise out of the question.

While exercise can have an extremely positive effect on the brain in terms of mood, memory, performance and pain management, it is still important to talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. There is no sense in starting off strong only to sideline your efforts with injury. With a deliberate plan in place and clearance from your doctor, you’ll be reaping the brain-boosting rewards in no time.


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