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Let’s chat a bit about your brain. How much do you know about what is going on inside your head? Do you have control over your brain’s health? Have you ever really thought about your brain’s physical health the way you do your heart? My guess is that you don’t know much about your brain or have ever really considered how to keep it healthy in the physical sense. We talk a lot about the thoughts we think and the emotions we feel, but rarely (if ever) about how much grey matter we have or how our neurons are doing. Yet, if I asked all of you if you know someone who suffers from depression, Alzheimer’s, or dementia, I bet you all have a personal story about someone you love being affected by these awful diseases. I know I do.
I personally suffer with depression and the thought of falling victim to Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is absolutely terrifying to me. I mean, is there anything more invasive and crippling than the loss of your cognitive abilities?
But what can we do about it? You don’t have any control in the matter, right? WRONG!
According to Dr. Wendy Suzuki, a professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University, there is something you can do right now that will have immediate, long-lasting, and protective effects on your brain! That’s right, you can start making dramatic changes to your brain health today that will actually help you protect yourself from experiencing the horrific effects of neurodegenerative diseases!
So what did Dr. Suzuki figure out?
Through her extensive research, Dr. Suzuki has concluded that exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today.
Let’s first look at the immediate effects exercise has on your brain.
A single workout will immediately increase levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow your nerve cells to communicate with each other and the rest of your body. Here are what each of those neurotransmitters are responsible for in your body:
- Immune Health
- Pleasure Reward
- Optimize brain performance
- Fight or flight
- Provides accurate assessment of danger or stressful situations
Dr. Suzuki points out that when you exercise you will immediately reap the benefits of these neurotransmitters by experiencing a boost in your mood, your focus, and your attention. Plus, you get to enjoy those rewards for the next few hours.
Now let’s take a look at the long-lasting effects exercise has on your brain.
By increasing your cardiorespiratory function through an increased exercise regime, you are able to actually change the anatomy and physiology of your brain. This is possible because when you exercise you actually begin growing new brain cells! So you can experience improved mood, focus, attention, and memory retention on a long-term scale by making a change in your lifestyle. Now all of that is amazing in it’s own right, but arguably the most transformative thing exercise will do for your brain is it’s protective effects.
To explain the protective effects exercise has on your brain there are two main areas of the brain that we are going to look at: the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. Here are what each of those areas are responsible for:
- Decision making
- Form and retain long-term memories
What makes these two areas of your brain particularly important is that they are the areas that are most susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases. When a neurodegenerative disease attacks your brain it causes death to your brain cells. As you lose brain cells, you lose the connections that make it possible for you to make decisions or to focus, your personality changes, and you are no longer able to create new memories or retrieve old memories because the pathways have been destroyed.
So the best way to fight against the effects of these awful ailments is to create as many pathways as possible; that way if you lose one pathway, your brain still has an alternate route to get to the information you need!
By creating new brain cells you are not eliminating the disease, you are just making it harder for the disease to have an effect on your mental abilities. Exercise is not a cure for these diseases, but it is the best way you can put up one hell of a fight against them.
So what are you waiting for?! Get out there and start sweating! Post your favorite way to work up a sweat below! Share this post with everyone you love and encourage each other to start making exercise a part of your lifestyle today! This is so much more important than how you are going to look at the beach this summer. Tag your workout buddy in this post and let’s buff up our brains!
Much Love from Health, Puppies & World Peace!
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