30 Days of Health and Contentment: Day 26, Exercise Your Brain

As fast as you can

You’ve probably read that exercise is good for the brain. I’m all for brain health, as you know.  But why, exactly, is it good? And, does it matter what kind of exercise you do?  What about logic puzzles, memory games, etc. – should you do those, too?

The Brain, Like All Organs, Needs Blood

Blood carries oxygen and glucose throughout the body.  The brain uses oxygen and glucose to work. So, the more healthy the supply, the better the brain will function.

When you exercise, you increase your heart rate, and that increases the passage of oxygen and glucose to the brain.  It also enhances the brain’s ability to grow new connections between cells, while reducing stress hormone production that may inhibit such growth.  Read more here.

What Type of Exercise Is Best?

Continuing with the idea that increasing heart rate benefits the brain, you can probably connect the dots – aerobic exercise shows the greatest benefits.

There are a lot of types of aerobic exercise, though. Do they all rate the same?

There have been multiple studies on the positive effects of cycling on Parkinson’s Disease.  I even participated in one!  That got me thinking (ha) about why these researchers chose cycling.

Dr. Jay Alberts, researcher at the Cleveland Clinic, theorizes that “forced exercise,” where the participant exercises at a sustained greater speed than normally comfortable (about 30% above normal), requires the brain to process information faster than it otherwise would. This stimulates connectivity and improved brain functioning. Read more here. 

Other researchers recommend aerobic activities that also have a mental component, like ballroom dancing. It seems that the combination of physical exercise with a mental component is like getting two for the price of one.

Mind Games

There’s a popular website that touts the ability to improve your brain’s functioning and longevity. Is it true that games can help your brain?

Well, yes and no.

A meta-analysis of “brain-training” research indicated that the games will improve cognitive function, but only as to the specific skill being tested.  It did not support a finding that brain-training improves or protects overall cognitive health. Read more here.

What’s a Girl (or Guy) To Do?

Learning something new is always a great way to stimulate your brain. So is visiting new places. These are, additionally, fun activities to put on your “to do list.”

Participate in social activities and talk to people everyday.  Social integration has been shown to be the most important factor in longevity. Again, this doesn’t require a lot of effort, and it’s enjoyable, to boot.

Don’t forget (he he) that diet also plays an important role in your brain health. Reduce that inflammation inside and out, and I’ll catch you on the flip side of 100!

This post is not intended to offer medical advice. Check with your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise plan.

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