We know that being fit and strong is essential for our health and fitness. Exercise and physical activity helps bones, joints muscles, cardiovascular health, immune function, sleep and more. Exercise also helps maintain and improve our mental health, and improves brain functioning through several different processes. Exercise releases endorphins which make us feel good. It also reduces stress levels by reducing the stress hormone cortisol and may improve specific immune system chemicals that can worsen depression and cause inflammation.
The really new discovery is that physical exercise increases brain function. Studies of 1000’s of adults indicate that exercise also stimulates brain growth- building a stronger brain. The adult brain is dynamic and changes as we learn and adapt. Exercise increases these positive neuroplastic changes to such an extent that people who exercise regularly have lower dementia risk. A study found that if people who did no exercise took up walking 30 minutes per day several times a week that their risk of dementia went down. Research also indicates that exercise builds the memory structures of the brain – the hippocampi- therefore improving memory, and other studies also indicate that other cognitive functions are also improved.
Try getting thirty minutes of exercise per day. It does not have to be formal exercise at the gym, try gardening, walking with friends with a coffee rather than sitting in the cafe, playing sports, or dance to music around your house! The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that exercise include aerobic exercise, resistance training or strength training to increase muscle mass, balance exercise and stretching. If that all sounds too much don’t worry: just sit less and move that body!