How many times has your teacher told you that you must exercise your brain like it’s a muscle? This fact has been supported by the school system for so long that we might start to believe it.
When you were young, you probably spend hours at your desk, doing math problems, writing essays, and reading about the Trojan War to exercise your brain and make it nice and wrinkly with potential. But does studying really exercises your brain?
The “brain is a muscle” saying is not that true. For instance, if you want to exercise your biceps and get them big and strong, you have to target your biceps. But with your brain, this doesn’t have to be so direct.
As a matter of fact, your brain can improve its functions while you’re exercising your body as well. Exercising your biceps can benefit your muscle mass but also your gray matter! So how can exercise improve your memory and boost your cognitive skills?
Your brain on exercise
Exercising has many benefits for the brain besides benefiting your muscle, bones, and weight. According to research, you can use exercise to boost your memory and improve your thinking skills in many ways.
As you exercise, your body reacts in many direct ways that trigger various responses, mainly when it comes to insulin levels, endorphins, and inflammations. Exercise also boosts the production of growth hormones.
All the chemicals produced during exercise can be used to produce and grow new brain cells, which is definitely something very beneficial for the brain.
Exercise affects your brain indirectly as well. It has a strong effect on sleep, stress, anxiety and mood, improving all of them in the best way for humans. And when your brain doesn’t have to battle so much anxiety, stress and sleep deprivation, it’s natural to enjoy better cognitive functions and better focus when going about your day.
Many scientific research efforts proved that people who exercise regularly have a larger center in the brain dedicated to memory control and thinking. According to one neurology research, people who do not exercise in their 40s, 50s, and 60s have a smaller brain size in their senior years.
It improves your concentration
People who suffer from focus issues at work might benefit from a healthy amount of workouts first thing in the morning. This habit helps you set the mood for the day in front of you and boosts concentration.
There are studies that concluded that morning yoga (just 20 minutes of it) helps with speed and accuracy results on memory tests.
Even though these studies are not completely valid due to their small sample, it does make sense that yoga improves focus because it highlights deep breathing, better oxygen intake, and thus better brain function.
It helps shift the focus
Sometimes you need to shift focus quickly from work tables to customer support and from work communication to family communication. This can be hard, especially when you’re forced to do this several times a day.
Luckily, activities that boost your heart rate (think cardio activities like jogging, running, swimming, cycling, playing basketball, etc.) can help boost your ability to shift focus quickly and easily.
To enjoy even better focusing results, make sure to invest in professional womens activewear that will put you in workout mode and help you concentrate on working your muscles.
Plus, looking amazing will also boost your self-esteem and help you focus on working out instead of overthinking your appearance.
It exercises your thinking skills
As you age, your thinking skills are slowly declining, especially in older adults who are not exercising. Age, oxidative stress, and inflammations can also cause changes in the brain that can slow down your cognitive functions.
However, regular exercise can slow down those changes and ensure mental sharpness for longer. This is especially important for people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but also for those prone to schizophrenia.
And when you take into consideration that Alzheimer’s is very dangerous, incurable, and deadly, yet so common in today’s society, it’s crucial to take your exercise seriously.
It improves memory
Exercising improves cognitive issues by boosting blood flow and oxygen levels in the blood. As you engage in physical activity, your heart starts pumping faster, distributing blood around your body and boosting blood flow to your brain as well.
And thanks to all the growth hormones awakened by exercise, your brain can enjoy some fresh brain cells. Exercises that boost your heartbeat and get you sweating can increase the size of your hippocampus, the part of the brain that is concerned with verbal learning and memory. As your brain exercises and develops new neurons, it’s easier to transmit messages and exercise your memory.
How often should you exercise to improve brain function?
Your brain can feel some memory and focus benefits quite fast after exercising. So how much activity is that? More is not always better, so a moderate amount—45 minutes for 3 to 5 times a week—is all you need to reap most of the benefits.
According to health organizations, adults need about 150 minutes of exercise per week, but you can try to get that to 200 at least. Still, it’s more than possible to squeeze some exercise into your day, no matter how busy it is.
When it comes to the type of activity to engage in, most research has been conducted on walking. However, since walking is a light aerobic activity, it’s believed that all other aerobic activities have the same effect on your cognitive performance.
According to joint studies conducted by Yale and Oxford universities, they gathered data from 1.2 million Americans. Their results concluded that people who exercise regularly report 1.5 fewer sick days and poor mental health days a month.
Those engaging in team sports, as well as those doing cardio, cycling, and gym workouts, have the biggest reduction of poor mental health days. Even a simple HIIT session at home can do wonders!
If you want to think better, get moving and reap those brain benefits. Your brain will grow and be young and sharp and you will also improve your physical health in the process—it’s a win-win situation for the books.
Written by Brigitte Evans