Brain training and all its related benefits have fueled remarkable trends in the physical health industry. There’s a good reason behind all the excitement about this field. Significant studies have demonstrated a strong link between mental acuity and physical exercise, meaning that consistent physical activity benefits brain functions. To fully understand this connection, check out Movement 101. With a full range of programs designed to enhance physical mobility, they embody the scientific evidence to support the benefits of exercise on mental health.
The well-known “runner’s high” and the tranquility brought on by yoga exercises are testament to the potential benefits of strenuous and sustained physical movements. These types of physical movements have been shown to confer positive structural alterations to the brain. Much like any muscle, the brain needs activity to maintain its tone and sharpness.
Unlike skeletal muscles like the triceps and others, the brain cannot be physically moved to achieve the benefits of exercise. Rather, an oblique approach can offer such benefits. This means that all physical movements aid brain health and, therefore, good memory.
Physical exercises help the brain to work better in the following ways.
Concentration is a big issue, especially in today’s society. With social media and other outlets providing an endless supply of potential distractions, focus and concentration have suffered significantly. As such, anything that can contribute toward better focus and concentration is now very much sought after.
This is exactly one of the benefits of physical movements. With dropping attention spans, people are now looking for ways to enable better focus. Simple activities like bouncing a ball can contribute to better concentration. Most curricula focus on sessions of intense academic study without much emphasis on exercise. Studies have shown that mixing study sessions with physical activity leads to enhanced concentration, thereby enabling better retention of the material taught. Physical activity doesn’t need to be strenuous. A 15-minute break involving throwing Frisbees, for example, can confer similar benefits that aid brain retention capacity.
The hippocampus is the part of the brain most involved in learning and memory. It follows that anything that affects it tends to have a significant effect on learning and recall abilities. Physical exercises have been shown to have a strong effect on the hippocampus, enabling its growth as people perform more exercises. This has the overall effect of improving the hippocampus’ function and, therefore, memory in general.
Caution should be the keyword here. While exercise can help memories to stick, overdoing them can become counterproductive. For example, taking a brisk walk as you learn the vocabulary of a new language helps to remember such words later. However, engaging in extreme physical activities while simultaneously trying to learn those same words can undo all such efforts by scuppering the brain circuits necessary for good memory.
Slowing Cognitive Decline
Dementia is a serious condition affecting many people in old age. Keeping your brain healthy helps to keep this process in check by delaying its onset and progression. Physical exercises are the best way to help combat this decline. Integrating several 30-minute walking sessions into your weekly schedule, for example, may not be as exciting as hitting the gym daily. However, such walking sessions can contribute to your brain health if performed consistently. Slowing the process of cognitive decline helps your brain maintain good memory capacity.
Creativity is heavily reliant on good memory function. Many inventors and great thinkers have claimed to have gotten sparks of creativity after brief and sporadic walking sessions. Creativity is nothing more than forming new ideas and connections from memories and past experiences. This means that anything that encourages good memory retention helps to drive creativity. This is exactly one of the main benefits of regular bodily movements.
Improved Mental Health
It’s no secret that good mental health is essential to good memory and concentration. Physical activities like walking or stretching can help improve mental health by inducing the release of substances in the body that give good sensations. The “runner’s high” is a good example of this. After intense bouts of physical movements, the body releases endocannabinoids and other pain-relieving substances that help to relieve stress.
The amygdala is a part of the brain implicated in fear, stress, and anxiety responses. Physical activities like yoga have been shown to cause shrinkage of the amygdala, meaning less stress and anxiety. These are all positive effects that promote better mental health, hence good memory.
In a nutshell, always try to incorporate as many physical movements into your daily routine as you reasonably can. You’ll be surprised at the overall benefits later on!