You’ve heard it a hundred times from your friends who stay physically active: exercise is great for your brain. While you certainly may believe it, there are certain concrete ways in which staying active can have tangible effects on the functioning of the brain.
If you still need some extra motivation to get off the couch and start following a routine, check out how physical activity can be notably beneficial to your grey matter.
These are a few ways Exercise benefits you:
Even, and especially if you have a desk job that requires focus and concentration, you’ll benefit from some physical exertion. Recent studies in Dutch primary schools found that 20 minutes of aerobics-style exercise between lessons lead to improved attention spans in students. Research has shown that sitting for the majority of your day has marked health effects, including raising your chance of premature death. If you spend most of your workday in a state of focus in front of a computer, consider starting and ending your day with some exercise.
Recent studies have shown that there is some truth in the long-held belief of many writers and other creatives that walking boosted their creativity. When psychologists put this notion to the test, they found that walking did indeed bolster divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is that part of creative thought where ideas are generated. The next time you find yourself stuck in a rut and without inspiration, science says, go for a walk.
Slows cognitive decline
Just 30 to 45 minutes of brisk walking three times a week has been shown to ward off mental wear and tear, and can even delay the onset of dementia. It’s not exactly clear why exercise helps the brain to age more slowly, but scientists ascribe it to increased blood flow to the brain, the expansion of the brain’s network of blood vessels, and surges of growth hormones.
Improves mental health
Runner’s high, or the feeling of elation that someone experiences after prolonged exercise, has long been called a natural high that staves off depression. In addition, a meta-analysis in 2013 reported that aerobic and resistance exercise was shown to be moderately effective in treating depressive symptoms. While more studies need to be done on the subject, this suggests that exercise could be invaluable in treating depression, anxiety and stress – all of these are illnesses that start in the brain.
Are you still in two minds about taking up some form of exercise? Start small by going for a brisk walk every day, and see for yourself if there are any noticeable mental effects. Chances are, you won’t ever dismiss exercise as wasted time ever again.