It’s no secret that exercise is tremendously important for our well-being as humans. It helps the body maintain its systems, helps to increase blood flow, improves our muscles, aids our metabolism – you name it, and exercise helps with it.
When we think of exercise, though, we typically think of things like jogging or working out at the gym. These are great activities, but they’re generally seen to work towards physical improvement. What types of exercise are best for helping our brains work better?
The link between exercise and the brain
Much like exercise helps our bodies develop healthy muscles, exercise helps our brain develop a healthy level of cognitive function. It does this in several ways.
- Exercise improves blood flow to the brain. Improving blood flow is vital because it allows your brain to receive a constant, healthy stream of oxygen. Red blood cells carry oxygen through your bloodstream, and oxygen keeps your brain alive and well. It only makes sense to make sure that you have a healthy flow of blood to and from your brain!
- Exercise releases a lot of hormones that we need to grow and develop properly. Some of these hormones require exercise to be released, so if we spend our lives stagnant and lazy, we don’t produce enough hormones. Many of these hormones are responsible for the development of a strong, healthy environment for your brain to flourish in.
- Exercise increases brain plasticity, which affects memory recall, your ability to think, and other cognitive abilities. It does this by promoting the growth of new connections between your brain cells, improving their ability to communicate.
What kind of exercise is best for the brain?
As a general rule of thumb, any kind of exercise that’s good for your heart is good for your brain. Boosting your heart rate improves your circulation and, in turn, improves the flow of blood to and from your brain. Still, different types of exercise have different effects on the brain.
- Aerobic exercise is great, especially for people who don’t have a lot of time on their hands. Aerobics are a great way to get your heart pumping quickly, and aerobic exercise provides you with benefits almost immediately.
- Anaerobic exercise is a bit different than aerobic exercise but it still provides enormous benefits for your brain. Anaerobic exercises include jogging, light swimming, or anything else that increases your heart rate at a sustainable level. Most anaerobic exercise can be done at a consistent level without you running out of breath or having to stop from fatigue. Anaerobics increase your heart rate over a longer period with less intensity.
It’s best to find a balance of different types of exercise and switch them up over the week. For example, do aerobics one day, anaerobics the next, and weight training on the third day.
Tips and tricks for exercising for your brain
Most exercises are good for your brain in some way or another, but it’s important to learn about some techniques that you can do to enhance the benefits.
- Exercising in the morning is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Morning exercise improves the blood flow to your brain early in your day, which allows your brain to operate at a more functional level for the rest of the day. Morning exercise has been proven to reduced stress and anxiety, improve mood, and give better clarity of thought.
- When exercising to improve cognitive function, you’ll want to consider exercise that engages your coordination as well as your cardiovascular system. These types of exercise, such as yoga, engage your body and mind together. The benefits provided by such exercise are much more significant than they would be if you did either type of exercise separately.
- All you really need to do to feel some of the benefits of exercise is make sure that you get your heart rate up. This can be done over a short period, by doing something like jumping jacks, or a longer, more concentrated period, by doing something like jogging or light weightlifting.
Benefits of physical exercise for the brain
Physical exercise does a lot of wonderful things for your brain.
- Exercise can improve your memory recall. Physical exercise targets your hippocampus – the part of your brain that’s largely responsible for memory. With regular exercise, you may notice not only that you’re able to recall memories better, but that you’re able to form memories better. This means that you’ll have an easier time recalling memories that were developed during a period of regular exercise than you would be able to otherwise.
- Exercise can improve your concentration. As well as vastly improving your ability to recall memories, regular exercise improves your ability to focus. Exercise is known to be beneficial for university students studying for exams. To best reap these benefits, it’s a good idea to add exercise breaks into your study routine.
- Exercise can improve your mood. It’s well-known that regular exercise promotes good mental health. Part of the reason behind this is because exercise releases endorphins, which are some of the body’s “feel-good” chemicals. Making sure that your endorphin system is functioning well is one of the most important things for staving off depression and anxiety.
We know that exercise is great for the body and brain, but a lot of people aren’t sure what kind of exercise is good for the brain. The good news is that almost any body-healthy exercise is great for your brain, as well.
Aerobics, anaerobics, and other types of exercise all increase the blood flow to your brain. It’s vital to ensure that your brain has a constant flow of blood so it can receive the oxygen it needs to function properly.
Hopefully we’ve been able to teach you something today. As long as you remember to get regular exercise and eat healthily, you’ll be sure to notice that your brain starts working a lot better.