The Importance of Keeping Active for Brain HealthMarch 10, 2023
Did you know that a healthy body makes a healthy mind? Regular physical activity is not only good for your muscle and bones; it offers many benefits for the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physical activity helps you think, learn, problem-solve, and enjoy an emotional balance. It can even improve memory and reduce feelings of anxiety.
Staying Active Improves Your Cognitive Performance
The adage “your brain is like a muscle” is no longer just a proverb. Muscles require movements to stay fit, and so does the brain. One study states that a single workout can improve your ability to focus and even shift your attention—a benefit lasting two hours after 30 minutes of vigorous movement. Activities such as brisk walking, jumping rope, running, swimming, and cycling can do wonders for your brain.
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests the same idea. One study showed that regular sessions of Tai Chi—a meditative movement that focuses on controlled breathing and physical postures—enhance a senior’s cognitive function, especially in planning, problem-solving, attention, and verbal reasoning.
How does it happen? Brigham Young University shares that by moving around, you are also helping the blood flow into your brain. As exercise creates high metabolism in the body, the brain, too, works alongside it, maintaining good blood circulation. Good blood flow delivers all the nutrients required to carry out the brain’s job, and as a result, the body increases the production of molecules to aid brain functions, including memory. It’s a two-way benefit that will keep your body and brain awake.
Keeping Active Improves Your Memory, Too
Through direct and indirect ways, exercise helps memory recall. Nature Scientific Reports published a study that people who engaged in light to moderate activity, such as morning strolls, have better episodic memory—remembering details about everyday events. On the other hand, people involved in more intense exercises are more likely to have better spatial memory or the ability to remember connections between objects and places, such as location and distance.
Another stunning discovery is that aerobic exercise aids in enhancing cognitive function in late adulthood. The science journal Nature published a study concluding that this form of movement positively affects episodic memory among adults above 55 years old. This is because physical activity that is structured and repetitive pattern-based movements strengthens the functional connectivity of the brain.
Staying Active Improves Your Mood and Reduces Anxiety
Finding relief from stress and anxiety is among the primary importance of keeping active for brain health. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise is vital for maintaining mental fitness, reducing fatigue, and improving alertness. But how does this happen? Movements help dissipate anxiety. A 10-minute walk helps in shifting the mood. Although the effects may be temporary, the impact of working out is like taking an aspirin for a headache. This is why in many cases, exercise is used as a therapy to treat bouts of stress and anxiety.
To help us understand more, Harvard Medical University shares the many ways exercising can help ease your anxiety.
- The workout itself diverts your attention.
- Moving your body decreases muscle tension.
- Getting your heart rate up changes your brain chemistry, also increasing the production of valuable neurochemicals such as serotonin, which uplifts the mood.
- Movement activates the parts of the brain responsible for executive function, allowing you to think more clearly.
- It also bolsters your body’s resilience against negative emotions.
Ways to Keep Active Even at Home
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. This does not have to happen in one go. Dedicate 30 minutes of movement daily at the freest hours or smaller moments that add up.
- Even at home, you can move around and keep your body—and mind—in its best shape. Sitting and being sedentary are many causes of mental and physical ailments. To avoid that, find forms of movement that are enjoyable to you! You can:
- Turn up the music and dance. Even without a partner, you can swing and spring to your heart’s content!
- Tackle that clutter! Make cleaning up your home a fun way to get in some much-needed exercise. Break out the broom and vacuum for a few minutes, or even better – take your chores outside! Enjoying some time in the sun can lift your spirits and give you a burst of energy.
- Play with your dog. Having dogs around can keep you company and encourage you to have a more active lifestyle. Take fifteen minutes each morning to take your pooch on an invigorating walk. Spend the afternoon playing with your pet, and you can complete your required workout for the day.
Keeping Active Will Benefit You in Many Ways!
Start an exercise program that fits your lifestyle. Not only will it do wonders for the brain, but for your social wellness, too. You don’t have to do these workouts alone. You can enlist your friends and family to join your health journey. An exercise buddy can keep you accountable and help you stick to the routines you decide to do together.
Move to a community that motivates you to be in your best shape after retirement! At Winchester Senior Center, we aim for you to have holistic, joyful living. Our excellent amenities are paired with professional care, so you can enjoy this new season healthily and worry-free. Contact us today!