Exercise is defined as any sort of activity that enhances or sustains physical fitness.

For years, people have been exercising for a variety of reasons. Individuals practice several activities to reap known benefits associated with them. For example, prevent the onset of aging, enhance and strengthen muscles, as well as reduce or maintain weight. Some also find entertainment and enjoyment when exercising and have incorporated it into their daily routine.

Frequent or regular physical exercise also fires up the immune system and helps ward off illnesses including cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, and obesity. It prevents stress and even depression, while enhancing mental health and the quality of sleep patterns. In fact, it has come to be a non-pharmaceutical solution in aiding sleep problems like insomnia, together with a variety of other cognitive and physical problems.

Obesity is a rising, worldwide issue our society is facing today. Exercising, however, lessens its effects by regulating the systems that metabolize fat and thus, minimizes this disease’s effects. Studies show that it also assists in stabilizing digestion and in eliminating constipation. It promotes fertility health for men and women, and it improves sex appeal as well.

Exercise is not just necessary for our body’s health, but is also essential to keeping our brain sharp and on point.

What many do not know is that you can certainly boost both your brain and your physicality by putting on your sneakers and getting yourself to the nearest gym. Our brains are no different than our muscles – it is either you use it, or you lose it. Going to the gym to strengthen and excite the growth of muscle cells is every bit as important as brain training to enhance cognitive connections.

The benefits associated with physical exercise, specifically aerobic exercise, include favorable effects on mental performance in multiple fronts, starting from the molecular up to the behavioral stages. It speeds up heart rate, which then pumps considerably more oxygen towards the brain. It also facilitates and enhances the bodily release of hormones, and stimulates growth of new links in a variety of fundamental cortical regions, to support a nourishing environment for brain cells, and to strongly activate brain plasticity respectively.

According to research conducted by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, short bursts of exercises for 20 minutes enables information processing periods and improved memory. The latest study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has also verified that exercise accelerated neuronal growth factors.

From a behavioral viewpoint, antidepressant-like effects were also observed when exercising – the feeling of a “runner’s high” and a release of endorphins. Research from Stockholm demonstrated this particular effect of running, and has also been connected to extra cell growth in the hippocampus, a section in the brain that is in direct control of learning and memory.

With the many positive effects that support a lot of aspects in our mental and physical fitness, no wonder exercise has been dubbed by certain care services as the “miracle” drug.

Mental and Physical Exercise

According to studies, different types of exercises will not only change the outcome for your brain, but will also enhance it in a variety of ways.

For example, aerobic exercises, or those that require low to moderate exertion and can be sustained over prolonged periods of time, uses glycogen and fat to fuel our bodies. These types of exercises, such as running at a comfortable pace, swimming, and biking, can stimulate neurotrophic growth factors, and can promote new neuronal growth in the brain as well.

Anaerobic exercises, on the other hand, are high-intensity exercises done in short bursts of time. It burns through the glycogen fuel much faster, and causes a buildup of lactic acid in the body. The presence of lactate helps strengthen the connection of neurons, and releases a hormone called norepinephrine, which helps control stress, pain, and appetite.

Ballroom dancing, an activity with both physiological and psychological elements, has also been found to have a higher influence on cognitive functioning than most forms of exercise or even mental activities such as chess, combined. This suggests that the best brain health trainings should integrate a variety of training around coordination, rhythm, and strategy.

Neurobiological Effects of Exercise

In general, exercise produces a lot of neurobiological effects, as well as numerous amounts of associated impacts to the brain’s formation, function, and overall cognition.

An extensive body of research on humans has revealed that consistent aerobic exercise, for even as little as 30 minutes a day, brings about persistent, beneficial behavioral effects, neural plasticity, and healthy modifications in gene expression inside of the brain. These long lasting effects comprises of a boost in neuronal growth, increased neurological actions such as c-Fos and BDNF signaling, better stress coping, advanced cognitive control over behavior, upgraded declarative, spatial, and working memory, and even structural and functional developments in brain structures, including pathways relevant to cognitive control and memory.

It also features significant impacts in the academic performance of everyone – from children and college students, to middle managers and seniors alike. Those who engage in aerobic exercise regularly possess higher scores on cognitive assessments, concentration, working memory, and the speed of information processing. Exercise intensity and duration are also positively correlated with the amount of neural plasticity and neurophysiological changes seen in the brain. Competitive athletes show healthier brains when compared to recreational athletes or non-athletes.

Aerobic exercise is a long-standing anti-depressant. Regular aerobic exercise helps aid symptoms linked to a range of medical conditions that affect the central nervous system, and can even serve as somewhat a remedy for these illnesses. There are also studies present that may validate how exercise can treat depressive and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders.

A considerable body of both preclinical and clinical evidences supports the therapeutic use of exercise for treating and preventing drug addiction. Some researches have also indicated it as an adjunct therapy for several neurodegenerative disorders, primarily Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Scientists are now investigating its possible role in combating cancer, among many other ailments.


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