In 30 seconds…
When you work your body, you boost your mind in three essential ways.
Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood.
While all types of exercise were found to increase cognitive abilities, the greatest benefit came from sports that combined complex sets of movements and interaction with other players. Increased benefit came in the form of growth of new brain cells and neural connections in the frontal lobe.
The report refuted the idea that the more exercise you do, the more mentally fit you’ll become. According to the findings, the type of exercise is more important for cognitive improvement than its frequency or duration.
Aerobic exercise in particular plays a big role in your memory, says Wendy Suzuki, PhD, professor of neural science and psychology at New York University’s Center for Neural Science. “When you exercise, your body pumps out a wide range of neurochemicals, including growth factors that stimulate the birth of brand-new brain cells in the hippocampus. That’s the area of the brain that’s critical for storing long-term memories,” she says. “I use that as my personal motivation to keep working out every day.”
Aerobics were shown to increase blood flow to the hippocampus, which may help protect against memory loss for those at risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Just a single session of exercise can improve your mood, Suzuki says. Each time we exercise, it encourages our brain to release chemicals like serotonin (which regulates mood, sleep, and hunger) and our natural mood lifters, endorphins. A 2019 study published in Preventive Medicine found that people who did strength training or aerobic activities like walking, running, and cycling reported fewer depressive symptoms. Research also shows that exercise can improve the quality and length of sleep, which is important for mental health and mood. Cumulative exercise can even permanently change the structure and function of our brains for the better, Suzuki says.
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