The Brain-Changing Effects of Exercise
I bang on about exercise pretty much every day of my life. You want to know the reason why? (Yes). Exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today. And your brain controls your entire body. So it’s kind of a big deal to look after it. That’s why.
Forget abs, forget toned arms, forget a nice peachy bum. Just for a moment anyway while you read this.
So do you want to know the effects exercise has on your brain? You’ve got no choice, I’m going to tell you anyway. And it’s not scientific waffle because I’m not a scientist (there is some science obvs). It’s simple, factual points that I’ve researched and collated so you can understand why exercise is so damn good for that important thing you use every day inside your noggin.
It has immediate effects on your brain. A single workout that you do will immediately increase levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline (ok fine those are pretty fancy words).
A single workout can improve your ability to shift and focus attention and that focus improvement will last for at least two hours. Studies have show that a single workout will improve your reaction times. Next time you go to drop your phone, BAM you’ll have caught it before it hits the floor. All because you worked out that day. But seriously, quicker reaction times keeps you alert and on the ball. Who doesn’t want that?
The most common finding in neuroscience studies looking at effect of long-term exercise, is improved attention function dependent on your prefrontal cortex. Not only do you get better focus and attention, but the volume of the hippocampus increases as well. In other words, you’re less likely to get distracted when working and more likely to be productive. I’ll take that any day yes please.
The most transformative thing that exercise will do is its protective effects on your brain. Here you can think about the brain like a muscle. The more you’re working out, the bigger and stronger your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex gets. Why is that important you may be asking yourself? Because these are the two areas that are most susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases and normal cognitive decline in aging.
So with increased exercise over your lifetime, you’re not going to cure dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but what you’re going to do is create the strongest, biggest hippocampus and prefrontal cortex so it takes longer for these diseases to actually have an effect. Again, I’ll take that.
Good news: you don’t have to become a triathlete to get these effects. The rule of thumb is you want to try and get exercise in three to four times a week, minimum 30 minutes an exercise session and you want to get some aerobic exercise in or something to get your heart rate soaring.
Bringing exercise in your life will not only give you a happier, more protective life today, but it will protect your brain from incurable diseases. And in this way, it will change the trajectory of your life for the better.
Ever heard of someone who exercises and either a) regrets doing so or b) wishes they never started?
Yeah me neither.