Your brain on exercise

Published April 24, 2014

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There are so many benefits to regular exercise; it’s important for a healthy heart, it helps us feel more energetic, and it helps to keep our weight in check. Exercise can also help us to stay mentally sharp.

Exercise affects our brain function in a number of ways:

  • Increases circulation – Exercise can create new blood vessels and leads to better blood flow to the brain, helping to deliver much needed oxygen, glucose and other nutrients.1
  • Creates new brain cells – Regular exercise creates new brain cells (neurons) through a process called neurogenesis. Interestingly, these new brain cells are mostly created in the hippocampus, which is the learning and memory center of the brain.1
  • Strengthens connections – Exercise boosts the levels of growth factors in the brain, which nourishes and protects new brain cells, increases the number of connections between brain cells and strengthens existing connections,1 which enhances brain health and brain function.
  • Helps protects against cognitive decline with aging – In a recent study involving 120 older people, it was found that those who took part in brisk walking sessions three to four times a week for a year, performed better on memory tasks and problem‐solving compared to non-exercisers. Brain scans also revealed that the learning and memory part of their brains had increased in volume by around 2%, thereby reversing age‐related loss by one to two years. In contrast, the same area of the brain in the non‐exercisers ’declined in volume by almost 1.5%.2

If you experience frequent bouts of forgetfulness or want to maintain your brain power as you grow older, engage in 30 minutes of moderate‐intensity exercise such as brisk walking or cycling, around five days a week. Make it enjoyable; exercise with a friend, take it outdoors and vary your routine for added mental stimulation. In addition to exercise, you could try a natural supplement with the herb Ginkgo biloba, which enhances blood flow to the brain and improves mental alertness, memory and concentration in healthy people.

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