How Physical Activity can affect your Brain
Lack of Physical Activity contributes to the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases….and leads to many associated symptoms such as:
loss of pleasure, lack of motivation, increased feelings of unhappiness and depression, loss of memory, lack of focus, a lack of ability to concentrate , decreased ability to learn increased stress levels, impulsive feelings , restlessness, disruption.
All of these comorbid conditions reflect an unhealthy Brain
- Insufficient physical activity is 1 of the 10 leading risk factors for death worldwide.
- Insufficient physical activity is a key risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.
- Physical activity has significant health benefits and contributes to preventing NCDs.
- Globally, 1 in 4 adults is not active enough.
- More than 80% of the world's adolescent population is insufficiently physically active.
- Policies to address insufficient physical activity are operational in 56% WHO Member States.
- WHO Member States have agreed to reduce insufficient physical activity by 10% by 2025.
Regular exercise changes the Brain to improve cognition, memory and thinking skills
(Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter, April 09, 2014)
“There are plenty of good reasons to be physically active. Big ones include reducing the odds of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Maybe you want to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, prevent depression, or just look better. Here’s another one, which especially applies to those of us (including me) experiencing the brain fog that comes with age: exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.”
“In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results. The results were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.”
“The finding comes at a critical time. Researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide.”
Exercise and the brain
Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.
Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.
Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.
Helps alleviate depression. Research shows that exercise is so effective at chasing away the blues, it can even help treat major depressive disorder. In fact, last year, researchers at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center came up with clinical guidelines for the necessary exercise “dose” doctors should recommend to patients to reap the antidepressant effects.
Improves your memory. Getting your heart rate up improves blood flow to the brain, which helps boost memory and overall brain function. In one study that looked at brain structure pre- and post-workout, researchers found increases in brain volume in a number of areas after participants got sweaty. The effect is pretty noticable, too: Patients in the study did 10 to 15 percent better on a variety of memory and attention tasks after they'd exercised.
Helps you de-stress. When you're stressed, it's often because your to-do list is a mile long—so you probably feel like it would just be more nerve-wracking to try to squeeze in a workout on top of everything else. But here's why you should: A study that came out last year from the University of Colorado at Boulder found that even forced exercise can help protect you from anxiety and stress. So stop making excuses, and get thee to the gym when you're feeling frantic.
Makes you more focused. After evaluating more than 100 studies on exercise, University of Iowa researchers concluded that strength training helps your focus because it requires focus: After all, it takes some serious effort to eek out those reps without sacrificing the correct form, all while remembering to breathe and tuning out the distracting guy huffing and puffing beside you.
Helps you stick to your goals. In the same University of Iowa study, researchers concluded that, since cardio requires such long and consistent effort, doing a lot of it may help you develop an ability to follow through with tasks. That, in turn, can help you stick to other (non-exercise-related) goals that require long-term effort.
(Women’s Health Magazine February 27, 2014)
Be Simple: people are not aware that physical activity is good for their brain
Be Smart: look at the best physical impact on the brain and cognition
Be Effective: Ensure that people are following the advice given and using the tips provided – they will see the effect on their cognition 1)monitor exercises 2)monitor cognitive improvement according to physical activity
Be Heard: the majority of people are not aware of the benefits of physical activity so we need to communicate about it. With the information provided on the benefits we should motivate people to adopt some kind of physical activity – to put physical activity to the test.
(Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter, April 09, 2014)
Put Physical Activity to the test
So what should you do? Start exercising! We don’t know exactly which exercise is best. Almost all of the research has looked at walking, including the latest study. “It’s likely that other forms of aerobic exercise that get your heart pumping might yield similar benefits,” says Dr. McGinnis.
How much exercise is required? The study participants walked briskly for one hour, twice a week. That’s 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. Standard recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week. If that seems daunting, start with a few minutes a day, and increase the amount you exercise by five or 10 minutes every week until you reach your goal.
If you don’t want to walk, consider other moderate-intensity exercises, such as swimming, stair climbing, tennis, squash, or dancing. Don’t forget that household activities can count as well, such as intense floor mopping, raking leaves, or anything that gets your heart pumping so much that you break out in a light sweat.
Don’t have the discipline to do it on your own? Try any or all of these ideas:
- Join a class or work out with a friend who’ll hold you accountable.
- Track your progress, which encourages you to reach a goal.
- If you’re able, hire a personal trainer. (Paying an expert is good motivation)
Whatever exercise and motivators you choose, commit to establishing exercise as a habit, almost like taking a prescription medication. After all, they say that exercise is medicine, and that can go on the top of anyone’s list of reasons to work out.