WHAT EXERCISE DOES TO YOUR BRAIN

The NHS website suggests that all adults from 19-64 should partake in 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week and include an additional strength workout on 2 days of every week.

The suggested way to accumulate your 150 minutes is with 30 minutes per day for 5 out of the 7 days each week.

What the NHS website doesn’t tell us is why they recommend this exercise schedule.

Exercise doesn’t just affect your body, when I say body I mean muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. It also has a direct effect on your brain!

The below TedTalk gives a detailed account of how exercise has immediate and long lasting effects on the brain.

Neuroscientist, Wendy Suzuki, expalins that exercise is the single most transformative thing you can do for your brain and gives the following 3 reasons why…

  1. Immediate effects upon your brain with a single workout include increased levels of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline providing improved mood

  2. Improve ability to shift and focus attention

  3. Improves your reaction times

These are things are pretty much common knowledge and generally accepted as the benefits of exercise.

She then goes on to explain how exercise changes the anatomy, physiology and function of the brain for longer lasting effects.

Regular exercise directly affects your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Now unless you’re a bit of a medical geek or general body/brain nerd this probably isn’t going to mean much to you. However, keeping these areas of the brain strong are going to guard against neurdegenerative disease and normal cognitive decline through ageing - again with the big words.

In a nutshell, neurodegenerative diseases include;

  • Dementia

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Prion disease

  • Motor neurone diseases

  • Huntington’s disease

  • Spinocerebellar ataxia

  • Spinal muscular atrophy

The moral of this TedTalk, bringing exercise into your life will not only give a happier and more productive life today it will protect your brain from incurable diseases and in this way it will change the trajectory of your life for the better. So, not only do we need the physical benefits of exercise to keep our hearts, lungs, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones strong. We need exercise to keep our brains strong too.