A recent article in Runner's World talked about the benefits of vigorous cardiovascular exercise on your BRAIN. That is correct. Not only are you exercising your heart and lungs, and burning calories, and adding years to your life…but you are also improving brain function! Research indicates the more aerobically challenging the exercise, the greater the mental payoff. Here’s how:
1. Running sparks the growth of fresh nerve cells, called neurogenesis, and new blood vessels, called angiogenesis, says J. Carson Smith, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Maryland in College Park who studies the role exercise plays in brain function. Older adults who exercised regularly increased the volume of their hippocampus—the region linked to learning and memory—by two percent, compared to inactive peers. That may not sound like much until you realize that this part of the brain isn't known for increasing at any point in adulthood. What's more, running appears to "rescue" many brain cells that would otherwise die.
2. Cardio exercise helps you get better at learning and storing new information and memories, and can potentially stave off age-related dementia. Adult mice "runners" grew new neurons that made them better at making fine distinctions between shapes and colors than sedentary rodents.
3. Lacing up regularly may make the executive functions that happen in the frontal cortex—decision-making, planning, organizing, juggling mental tasks—easier. In a 2010 Japanese study, people who'd just completed bouts of physical activity scored higher on mental tests than those who did not.
4. Being aerobically active is key not just to making memories, but finding them when you want to. In a study of patients diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, those who exercised were better able to recall names of famous people.
5. Running may be just as effective—and in some instances better—than SSRI drugs in treating depression. These antidepressant meds work by keeping neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepineprhine in the synapses longer, improving mood and outlook. Turns out, aerobic exercise does the same thing.
~Why do you exercise?
Have a great weekend!