6 Reasons Your Brain Loves Movement
There’s no doubt about it, our brains are important. While there are things many of us do to keep them strong — reading, listening to music or thought-provoking podcasts, creating whatever comes to mind — there is one more simple task you can add to the list: move. While it’s important to continuously augment your brain from a psychological standpoint, it’s also imperative to regularly nourish it from a physical perspective as well.
Your brain LOVES movement! Whether you’re running, walking, lifting heavy weights, hiking, playing tag with your kids, it doesn’t matter — as long as you’re moving, your brain is happy. Need proof? You got it!
It makes you happier
We’ve all dealt with feelings of sadness and anxiety; maybe instead of that sappy movie and pint of ice cream or glass of wine, we should head out for a jog. A recent study found that moderate exercise can boost levels of glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), two neurotransmitters that can lead to mood disorders when levels are low. Keeping your body moving, keeps these feel-good chemicals at optimum levels which, in turn, keeps your mood at optimum levels.
It feeds your brain
As soon as you begin to move, the rate of blood circulation throughout your body increases dramatically. This increased blood flow not only floods your working muscles, but your brain as well. The blood itself is not important, but what it carries is – nutrients and oxygen, both of which are essential for maintenance and repair of brain tissues.
It improves neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity refers to the changes in neural pathways and connections throughout your brain that occur due to different types of stimuli. A meta-analysis of several studies published in the journal Sports Medicine found exercise increases your brain’s ability to respond and adapt to these stimuli, creating new pathways and mending damaged ones.
It broadens your horizons
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you stick to the same routine day in and day out. Sitting at your desk and lounging on your couch won’t do you any favors when it comes to brain health. Along with all the other benefits of exercise, perhaps one of the most decisive is the simple fact that maintaining an active lifestyle often forces you into new situations. These new circumstances, movements and environments are exactly what your brain thrives off. New experiences are what cause your brain to grow and adapt.
It improves memory
While it’s making your heart and lungs stronger and more efficient, regular aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, jogging or cycling is also improving your memory. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found aerobic training significantly increased the volume of the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning. My, what a big hippocampus you have!
It keeps your brain bigger, longer
With age, tissues of our body naturally begin to dwindle – muscle, bones and brain matter being the big three. Thankfully, there are steps we can take to mitigate these losses. Strength training is the key to keeping your muscles and bones strong, while aerobic exercise is the ticket for maintaining brain tissue. The Gerontologist published research that found cardiovascular fitness is associated with the sparing of brain tissue and enhancing cognitive functioning in older adults. In addition, the release of growth hormone, which occurs after both aerobic and resistance exercise, is known to increase the growth of new blood vessels in the brain while increasing the number and survival rate of new brain cells.
There you have it. Moving your body on a daily basis will not only keep your health and wellness at pristine levels, it will also keep that brain of yours robust and engaged for years to come.
Jen Weir is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Functional Training Specialist, and Certified Personal Trainer with Teacup Wellness.