You can usually feel physical changes to your body while you exercise. You can feel a muscle contract and release. You can feel your legs getting tired and the sweat forming on your face while you push yourself on the treadmill. But have you ever wondered what happens to your brain when you exercise?
Regular, consistent exercise actually changes the size of certain parts of the brain. You may come to FitClub to see your body and muscles change sizes, but what’s happening in your head may be even more important.
Harvard University reports that aerobic exercise actually changes the size of the brain’s hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Not only does increased capacity for memory and learning make you smarter, but it also reduces your risk of dementia. Researchers have found that exercise reduces inflammation and increases the growth of healthy brain cells.
While a healthy lifestyle will allow you to reap the benefits of increased memory and learning throughout your life, you don’t have to wait long to see the improvement. Research suggests that cardiovascular exercises like walking or cycling immediately prior to learning new information helps you better retain the information. Make it work for you by fitting in a trip to FitClub on your lunch hour or before work in the morning to see if you find yourself better retaining important information throughout the day.
A consistent strength training routine has also been found to have neurologic benefits. In a 2011 AARP study, strength training even once each week improved mental skills by as much as fifteen percent! Both cardiovascular exercise and strength training also increase the body’s production of serotonin. The lack of sufficient serotonin is associated with depression and difficulty sleeping.
If you’re already regularly fitting in plenty of cardiovascular exercise, adding yoga will benefit your brain, too. Yoga has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, allowing you to think more clearly, control your emotions, and sleep more deeply.
Yoga teaches you how to command your breath and movement. Regular yoga practice allows you to relax your body in times of stress, even outside FitClub. The increased resistance to allowing stress to take control of your body and life is directly linked to a smaller amygdala, the part of the brain that processes stress and anxiety.
How to make it work for you.
To improve your brain’s health and ability to function doesn’t require as much exercise as you might think. In fact, experts recommend at least 120 minutes to 150 minutes each week to improve your brain health. Given that there are more than 10,000 minutes each week, finding just 120 to 150 minutes to improve your physical and mental health isn’t too daunting!
Like the rest of your body, your brain benefits best when cardiovascular, yoga, and strength training are all part of your balanced fitness routine. FitClub makes it easy to fit all three elements into your routine with a variety of group exercise classes and personal trainers. Before you plan your next workout, make sure it’s a balanced plan that benefits your body and mind.