How does exercise affect our brain?

Crossword Puzzles or Cardio?

Can cardio increase your brain size?

     We know that exercise is great for shaping our bodies and keeping us healthy and for lowering our risk of diseases like heart attack, stroke, cancer and diabetes… but what does it do for our brains?  I used to think that the best ways to keep the mind sharp was by learning a second language, playing a musical instrument, or doing crossword puzzles.   As it turns out, I was wrong. The afore mentioned activities are a distant 2nd to exercise.

     If you suck at remembering names, lay off the sudoku and feed your brain some exercise. In a study published in Perceptual and Motor Skills, women performed 20 percent better on memory tests after running on a treadmill than they did before exercising. They also increased problem-solving abilities by 20 percent.

     The intensity of your workout makes a difference too. A study in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory found that people learned vocabulary words 20 percent faster after intense exercise than after low-intensity activity. Those who did more-demanding exercise had a bigger spike in their brains' levels of BDNF, dopamine, and epinephrine afterward. So the more you challenge your body, the more your gray matter benefits.


 The Science of the Brain

     We now know that without a doubt exercise will boost your mood by releasing serotonin and dopamine and clarify your thinking by releasing norepinephrine (which also influences motivation and arousal)… and make you smarter?  Can that be possible… While that may seem crazy, studies have shown without a doubt that exercise increases the size of your hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning.  For example, the brain of a 65 year old is much smaller than that of a 25 year old because the brain degenerates with age…Unless that 65 year old exercises consistently.  Then the brains are virtually the same size.  So in summary, exercise will improve memory, problem solving, attention, and processing information.  If you find yourself forgetting passwords or losing your keys and phone, it’s time to hit the gym!

My Personal Experience.

Me doing brain exercises at the swamp lol!

     Owning a gym has given me an opportunity to observe people that exercise consistently for years and I have to say I agree 100 percent with that.  I have noticed that people who exercise consistently in their 50’s and even 60’s are still just as sharp as people in their 20’s and 30’s.  And on the other end of the spectrum, I have seen a decline in mental sharpness in people that do not exercise and are sedentary.  

Which type of Exercise is best?

      So which type of exercise is best, resistance or aerobic?  Studies of just doing resistance training showed great results for the brain.  And studies of just doing aerobic exercise also showed great results. But here is what I found most intriguing!  Studies that combined the 2 together showed the best results.  So the answer is…Both!  Make your exercise routines a combination of resistance training with aerobic exercise, roughly 20 to 45 min of each type of exercise depending on your fitness level.  I found these results to be extremely exciting because combining the 2 types of exercise also produce the best results for the body as well.  So sharpen your mind and body at the same time!