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3 Brain Improvements of Exercise

The benefits of exercise are vast; lowered body fat percentage, increased energy, increased strength, lowered blood sugar, lowered blood pressure. But did you also know that regular physical fitness can impact the the volume of the part of you brain that is responsible for memory? Or increase the neural firing power of the the part of your brain that is responsible for your decision making, focus and attention?

Scientists have found out that regular physical exercise can have dramatic transformation on your brain. Leading to more memory, better decision making and more focus. Science has also found that exercise can help prolong the effects of dementia and Alzheimer's.

Both the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are extremely important parts of your brain. Your memory, your personality, how you make decisions, how much focus you are all vital functions of the human brain and functions that become increasingly more necessary as our world becomes flooded with distractions. These two parts of you brain are also the two parts of your brain that improve the most from physical exercise. 

And you thought working out was just about looks, didn't you? Now we know that pumping iron, swimming and even walking about the block can impact the most important muscle in our body, our brain. 

Here is a little anatomy lesson for you:

Prefrontal Cortex

Responsible for decision making, personality, focus and attention. 

Hippocampus (inside the Temporal Lobe)

Responsible for memory, both long and short term. 

Here are the three reasons exercise increases brain function:

Immediate effect on your brain 

Physical exercise effects your brain instantaneously. Have you ever worked out, just so you could feel better or worked out and instantly were in a better mood? Of course you have! Working out increases feel good hormones on our brains; dopamine (the pleasure hormone), serotonin (mood and social behavior hormone) and norepinephrine (arousal and alterness hormone). 

Increased Focus

A single workout can increase your focus/productivity for up to two hours after. Exercise can immediately shift your focus and attention!

Reaction Time

Exercise can increase your reaction time like bracing your self before you slip on a patch of ice or grabbing your coffee before it spills. 

These effects are transient meaning a single workout event can give you all three of these effects. However, the most powerful effects are seen with long term exercise adherence causing long term effects on the brain. Exercise literally changes the anatomy, function and physiology of the brain. 

Back to the hippocampus, remember the part of the brain responsible for your short and long term memory. Scientists have found that exercise not only effects your memory but also can increase new brain cells in the hippocampus, increasing its volume and improving long term memory. It also helps with improved attention function and a long lasting mood. 

Well how long do I have to workout to achieve these benefits? Good question! Scientists say that the minimum requirement is 3-4 exercise bouts per week for 30 minutes per workout. Workouts need to increase your heart rate and keep it up. 

Last Caveat

All these benefits are great but the over the long haul, we are all susceptible to cognitive decline in our brain function and degenerative brain diseases. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are the most effected parts of your brain for both of these and they are also the parts of the brain that benefit the most from regular exercise. Improving their function acts like a protective mechanism to delay the onslaught of brain disease (Alzheimer's and dementia) and normal aging of the brain. It won't prevent it but it will delay it. 

Your quads and biceps are great muscles, they look good but your brain is by far the most important. How we treat it dictates the state it will be in later in life. Treat it well my friends. 

Yours in Fitness,


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