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  • Writer's pictureSarah Hubbard

Exercise and the brain... Whats the connection?





It’s hard to argue not to exercise - living in a highly distractible world with never ending input, we are rarely doing just one thing at one time. All the multi-tasking that our brains are doing can be exhausting and straining, which brings us to the topic of exercise and the benefits to our brain health.


Exercise increases the blood flow throughout our bodies, strengthens our muscles, bones and joints, reduces the risk of diseases, lowers blood pressure, improves heart and lung health, increases endorphins, reduces feelings of anxiety and depression... and so on. Today, we’re focusing on exercising and your brain.


Neuroplasticity: What is it?


Neuroplasticity is the capacity of our brain cells to change in response to our

behavior.


Most people have heard about declining brain function with aging. They know or have heard that reading, learning to dance, doing Sudoku or puzzles, learning to play an instrument or learning a new dance is good for our brains. Learning new tasks is something that helps to increase cognitive function and neuroplasticity.


An unfortunate characteristic of the brain is that it generally shrinks with advancing age.

Statistically, our brains shrink roughly 1%-2% on average annually in individuals age 55 and over.


Exercising has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, especially the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus which in turn increases neuroplasticity. The power of the brain to change and adapt, no matter what age, is truly remarkable.


A moderate level of exercising over a 3-6 month period has been shown in studies to improve cognitive performance and memory. Exercise, especially, is shown to improve blood flow to the executive functioning parts of our brains.


They say to work smarter, not harder. Let’s be smart and start exercising!


If you don’t feel like exercising, remember that if you aren’t doing it for your physical health then you’re doing it for your brain health.


General weakness can be a concern with knowing how and where to start. If you are looking to begin an exercise program but are concerned about ways to safely do this with possible health or fitness restrictions, a Physical Therapist can help you figure out what is the best way to get started.


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Sarah Hubbard, PTA



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