Cognitive. Hmm, sounds like a big word? Don’t worry, basically it just means thinking. Your brain’s cognitive function covers perception, judgment, memory, and reasoning. According to psychology studies done at the Florida State University and other similar institutions, there’s a link between aerobic exercise and improved overall brain health. Here is what the research shows:
Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to your brain, providing it with nutrients (like oxygen and glucose) and transporting out harmful wastes.
The type of exercise is essential. According to the studies, aerobic exercise like walking, running, cycling, swimming, etc. that don’t involve high-intensity factors are the ones which promote cognitive brain benefits. Aerobic exercise is also called cardiovascular exercise. What’s good for your heart and blood vessels is also good for your brain.
Aerobic exercise brings about structural and beneficial changes in your brain which can boost your memory and perception. It can also help in preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
Additionally, they found that people who exercised more had a bigger brain volume (a heavier brain). The areas of their brains responsible for cognition were more developed and well-vascularised (good blood vessels).
Increased production of a certain protein in your brain called brain-derived neurotropic factor (BNDF). BNDF is responsible for growth and specialising of existing neurons (brain cells). Surprisingly, it can also lead to neurogenesis, the birth of new neurons. As a result of aerobic exercise, new neurons were observed in the hippocampus (memory center), cerebellum (motor and balance area), and the frontal lobes (area used for critical thinking). Nice, huh? Unfortunately, this effect will eventually plateau or even out. At that point, over exercising may even become detrimental to your overall health.
Aerobic exercise is better than brain-training games in improving overall brain health. Though we are not saying to stop those brain-training games like crossword puzzles and Sudoku if you enjoy them.
If you can’t significantly improve your cognitive function through exercise, you could at least maintain it as you age.
Unfortunately, working out how much aerobic exercise is needed to have measurable brain benefits is still in the works. The exact effective dose and duration are still to be determined. But here are some recommendations to kick-start your brain-boosting exercise habit:
Consistency is key. You have to be consistent when it comes to your exercise regimen. To enjoy better brain health, start your aerobic exercise today and keep it going consistently. Choosing an a form of aerobic exercise that you like doing will help with this.
Most studies recommend light to moderate intensity when exercising. High-intensity interval training and anaerobic resistance training brought about only minimal changes in brain volume and no changes in brain neurogenesis (birth of new neurons) in experimental adult rats.
To improve cognition, most studies recommend brisk walking as the best form of exercise for approximately an hour on most days of the week. If that seems too much for you, you can start small and work your way up. If you’re not a fan of walking, other aerobic exercise like playing squash or dancing could be good alternatives if they increase your heart rate.
The more quality aerobic exercise you do, the better sleep quality you’ll get. Sleep is essential for optimal brain growth and development. You can’t improve your cognition if you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep indirectly affects your mood resulting in less anxiety and stress, which in turn sets up a positive environment for growth. Aim for between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
As we grow older, it’s a fact that we become more sedentary. We hope that the information in this article will motivate you to get involved with some form of aerobic exercise, especially as you age. It’s certainly another reason to wake up and move around. Keep the blood vigorously flowing to your brain and enjoy a more active, fruitful, and brain-stimulating life.