Q: Whenever I exercise I always feel mentally refreshed when I am finished. Not only do I have more energy, but my mind seems more focused. Is this “all in my head”? (no pun intended!) –
L. Atha, Fort Myers
A: Most of us are familiar with the benefits of regular exercise such as reducing the odds of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It helps the body to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, prevent depression, or just look better in general. A lesser known benefit of exercise it turns out that exercise might be equally important toward the brain’s health and your cognitive functioning. Not only does exercise change the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills, it also aids your brain in its ongoing fight against the effects and damages of aging.
The most encouraging part of it all is that it does not take running a half marathon to yield the benefits. A simple workout that results in breaking a sweat and getting the heart rate elevated, especially for older people, can boost the health of the brain. The physical exertion of the activity forces the cells in the brain to reinforce the old connections between neurons in addition to forging new connections. The more neuron connections present in the brain, the easier it is for them to process and store information. As the brain ages, it loses nerve tissue. People who exercise, however, have been discovered to lose brain tissue much slower than those who do not.
In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.
Bad knees? Hip issues? No problem. We all have different limitations that affect our activity levels. It is up to you (and your doctor) to determine YOUR limitations, and work within those parameters. The easiest way to bypass joint related issues is to remove gravity from the equation and get in the pool. Whether it is a structured water aerobics class, or you by yourself swimming and moving around, pool activities are a fun, easy way to incorporate exercise into your weekly routine. So go jump in the pool and exercise your body AND your brain!
Dr. Misty Green is a local Chiropractor serving the Cape Coral/North Fort Myers, Florida area for over 20 years. She can be reached at (239) 772-5777 to schedule an appointment. Check out our website at AskDrMisty.com for short and sweet video health tips.
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