Exercise your mind

Earlier this month, was Brain Awareness Week; a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.

Neuroscientists across the globe dedicate their time and resources to studying the microenvironment of the brain; and one important branch of their research is the relationship between exercise and cognitive function.

According to internationally recognised expert in Neuropsychiatry, Dr John Ratey: "the reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping is that it makes the brain function at its best."

With this in mind we have considered some of the impacts exercise has upon our cognitive ability and looked at the science behind this.
  • Regular physical activity improves our memory retention and facilitates our ability to learn new things. This is because getting sweaty increases the production of cells in the hippocampus area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
  • A heart-pumping session can boost creativity by firing up our neurons and encouraging mental flexibility. Many authors and artists have recommended fresh air or a long walk as a way to inspire one's creativity or get rid of writer's block.
  • It is common knowledge that exercise can decrease anxiety, prevent depression and generally improve your overall mood. This is because exercise increases the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain - important neurotransmitters for our thoughts and emotions.
  • Exercise improves your quality of sleep. Particularly for those who struggle to sleep the recommended minimum amount, regular exercise will improve this significantly.
  • Cardiovascular exercise can improve overall brain performance. Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making and higher thinking.
  • Exercise helps the brain stay sharp. Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more deskbound peers.
  • Exercise physically strengthens the brain's infrastructure and, like any other muscle in the body the brain grows with use and withers with inactivity.
So there you have it, not only is exercise essential for keeping your body healthy, it is essential for keeping your brain healthy too!
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