Let’s face it, we’re all pretty busy with our lives and we don’t always have time for everything we want to do. If we want to do something good for our brains, it should be something that gives us the greatest bang for our buck; and if we could do only one thing for our brains to improve overall brain function and health, it should be exercise because it is not only good for brain health and development, it also has all those other benefits like improving physical health, providing emotional well-being, and reducing stress. One activity – multiple benefits.
In this post, we are only going to look at why physical activity is good for the brain. You can also refer to our earlier articles on how sports and physical activity benefit the brain:
- it is beneficial for brain development
- it improves academic performance
- it protects the brain from aging
When you exercise, the heart and lungs work faster to deliver more oxygen to the body and the brain. Since the brain thrives on oxygen to send messages and make decisions, exercise helps increase overall brain functioning.
Exercise jump-starts neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells). Nourishing chemicals such as hormones and growth factors are released in the brain during exercise. These chemicals prime the brain to grow new brain cells.
Before new brain cells can be useful, they must first be connected to the existing network. One way for that to happen is for the brain to learn something new. Sport activities like riding a scooter, riding a bike, or swimming, which require the learning of new skills like balancing on two wheels, can do just that because in order to coordinate the body for these complex movements, the brain must build new networks.
A study on brain health and cognitive performance in mice showed that only one thing mattered in their environment – whether they had a running wheel in their cage. – New York Times