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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tamara C. Hill

Working out for abs AND brains

Researchers have been studying the effects of movement on the body for quite some time and now more recently science has shown various ways in which exercise benefits brain and cognitive functioning as well.

Exercise and movement both directly and indirectly help improve functioning of the brain. Directly, getting more blood flow to the brain makes for healthier cognitive functions since blood brings nutrients and oxygen to the brain. Blood flow also reduces insulin resistance, reduces inflammation, and stimulates the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.

One international research study performed by researchers at both Western Sydney University and the University of Manchester found that regular exercise increased the actual volume of the brain, particularly regions of the brain associated with learning and memory.

Indirectly, exercise improves mood and energy levels, helps improve sleep patterns and can also reduce the effects of stress and anxiety. Physical exercise produces an anti-anxiety effect in the brain. Both aerobic and mindful movement, like yoga, help to activate and replenish GABA, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in the body’s response to stress. Movement also decreases the level of cortisol throughout the body —a hormone that is released when the body is stressed.

Movement releases hormones throughout the body that are critical for emotion regulation and wakefulness. Working out enhances chemicals in the brain—like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. When we boost our heart rate, our body releases endorphins, resulting in a boost of energy and improved mood. By exercising, your mood can be significantly enhanced by the brain learning to naturally produce these mood-enhancing chemicals.

It doesn't have the be much:

Any amount of movement is good for the body. Going for a walk, an evening bike ride, a quick stretch, body-weight movements.... they all benefit your brain.

Like i always say, start small. Sprinkle in a few minutes here and there because it will add up.

Now get going! Be well.

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