Science Shows How Exercise Benefits the Brain

Eric Sentell
Woman walking in the woods at sunriseEmma Simpson on Unsplash

We all know exercise is good for our bodies, but recent scientific research shows that exercise also benefits our brains.

According to National Geographic:

Molecules made by muscles in motion can influence the structure and health of the brain.

Scientists used to believe that the brain sent signals to the rest of the body to control it, but the brain did not receive any "feedback" signals that influenced how it functioned.

Recent research upends that idea.

Moving our muscles increases the brain's ability to regenerate neurons, calm inflammation, and enhance neuron-to-neuron communication.

How does dancing, running, lifting weights, planking, yoga, or playing sports affect an organ that's not flexed during any of those activities?

When muscles work hard, they excrete a substance called "irisin," which then triggers the production of a protein in the brain that creates new neurons. Exercising the body literally builds new brain cells.

The presence of irisin also reduces inflammation in brain cells, which then reduces the risk of Alzheimer's and other diseases of an aged brain.

Exercise benefits mental health. The "runner's high" boosts mood and energy, decreases anxiety and depression, and promotes overall well-being. By producing hormones, active muscles change the chemistry of our bodies and brains.

Active people aren't happier, all things being equal, than sedentary people because they're just happier. They're happier because they're active.

So while we all know exercise is good for our bodies, now we also understand why it's good for our brains.

Next time you need some motivation to take a short walk, go for a jog, do some pushups, or join a dance class, remember that a little exercise can benefit your brain for work and old age.

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