Killing two birds with a stone is an incident which rarely occurs in the life of any human. The benefits of regular physical exercise on the body are well known.
These benefits include improved cardiovascular endurance, an increase in the volume of blood pumped per heartbeat, a decrease in the resting heart rate, strengthening of the muscles of the heart and in an increase in white blood cell count which helps in making one more resistant to diseases.
However, little is known about the effect exercises have on the human brain. Do all kinds of exercises have a direct impact on the human brain? Is there a need to exercise at all? Well, have you ever wondered why we seem to lose our sharp memory as we age? Is the loss of retentive memory due to ageing a natural phenomenon which has to be hitherto accepted? Can anything be done about memory loss due to ageing? It is with great excitement that I announce that we indeed kill two birds with a stone when we engage in regular aerobic exercises. How?
A study by the University of British Columbia found out that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus (an area of the brain, largely associated with memory and cognitive abilities). However, the results proved otherwise when strength enhancing exercises were done. Strength enhancing exercises had no direct impact on the human brain as compared to aerobic exercises.
Aerobic exercises are the type of exercises that cause the heart to pump more blood rapidly to the rest of the body’s cells, tissues and organs. Such exercises include brisk walking, jogging and running. The more we engage in aerobic exercises, the more our hippocampus enlarges which leads to reduced risk of forgetfulness even in old age.
According to the brain flux, from around age thirty, the brain naturally begins to lose its mass. This loss of brain mass is more profound in the hippocampus which affects our reasoning capacity, memory and can even lead to the occurrence of dreaded dementia.
As we have seen earlier, the hippocampus enlarges upon consistent aerobic exercising and prevents the brain from losing any of its mass.
Regular aerobic exercising allows for more blood and oxygen to be sent to the brain. The presence of more oxygen in the brain helps to facilitate the process of repairing damaged brain cells and growing of new brain cells known as neurogenesis.
According to the brain flux, scientists recently identified a brain chemical known as BDNF- Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor which promotes the process of neurogenesis in our brains.
This helps in prolonging alertness and mental sharpness. Harvard health blog also has it that regular aerobic exercises lead to the growth of new blood vessels in the brain as well as the creation of more neural pathways in the brain. Extraordinary, right?
Harvard health blog also asserts that parts of the brain which controls thinking such as the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex are larger in people who regularly engage in aerobic exercises.
We do not have to wait until the onset of a disease before we discover the importance of exercising. As we have seen, exercises not only boost the body’s power to function but it also has a telling effect on the brain. It is no fluke when most health specialists say “exercise is medicine”.
How long should we exercise? According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, a brief aerobic exercise for as short as twenty minutes helps in facilitating information processing and memory functions.
Most health experts advise that we engage in moderate to high-intensity physical activity for at least a hundred and fifty minutes in a week. We then have to discipline our bodies and have the willpower to daily engage in exercise so that we reap some of the magnificent fruits that regular aerobic exercises have in store for the brain.
With the above discoveries, I hope that we are fueled by a greater motivation to go an all-out assault on disease and loss of brain function by engaging in regular aerobic exercises.