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.