Who wouldn’t want to increase their brain capacity? Smart people live more amazing and fuller lives and also can get more things done. Did you know that exercise or physical activity works out the brain as well?
Research has proved that there are several benefits of exercise on brain function. Cellular repair and increased neuronal connectivity result in improved memory, learning skills, and increased attention span. Also there is significant improvement in decision making and planning skills. Exercise also promotes growth of new nerve cells and increase in blood flow throughout the brain.
So how do these positive outcomes actually happen? The benefits of exercise are both direct and indirect. One of the direct effects of physical activity is that it reduces cellular inflammation and insulin resistance. This in turn stimulates growth factors to be released that promote the development of new nerve cells and blood vessels in the brain. Additionally, the growth factors also ensures the repair and survival of existing brain cells. Thus cognitive function is affected directly from physical activity.
Insomnia and prolonged stress can lead to cognitive impairment and decline. Some of the indirect effects of exercise happens as a result of improved mood, sleep, reduced stress and reduced anxiety. Exercise helps us sleep better and therefore deal with stress and mood disorders more effectively.
In a research study conducted at University of British Columbia, it turns out that regular heart-pumping aerobic exercise boost the size of the hippocampus region of the brain – this is the area that is responsible for verbal learning and memory. Other studies have also found an association between exercise and increased volume of the prefrontal and temporal medial cortex – these are the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory. In fact, one research has found that engaging in a regular exercise program of moderate intensity for as little as six months resulted in an increase in the volume of selected regions of the brain.