Over the past few years, a number of studies have proven the positive effect of exercise and active lifestyles on preventing the effects of brain aging, delaying dementia and restoring reduced cognitive functions associated with age-related changes. Although the mechanism of the impact of physical exercises on brain activity has not yet been studied completely, scientists with certainty call some of the reasons for this relationship.
First of all, physical activity has a clear and positive impact on cardiovascular fitness. A recent study titled “Brain activity during walking: a systematic review” demonstrated extensive evidence of the existence of a link between cardiovascular physiology and mental fitness. In other words, what is worthy for our heart, is worthy for our brain. Second, physical exercises support and control blood sugar levels. As was shown in the study, individuals who have impaired glucose tolerance tend to report a decrease in cognitive function. Moreover, the positive effect of an active lifestyle is manifested through an increase in the influx of oxygen-rich blood into the brain, which is a consequence of physical exercises. Also, exercise is a proven way to increase self-confidence and reduce anxiety, which also positively affects brain activity.
Moreover, exercises affect different parts of the brain. In addition to the positive effect on the development of the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory, a significant effect of physical activity on the prefrontal cortex was also found, which leads to an improvement in exercise – executive functions. Another study found that a decrease in physical activity leads to a decrease in the grey and white matter in the parietal, temporal and frontal cortexes. It was found that aerobic exercise leads to the development of middle frontal and superior parietal regions of the brain by increasing the flow of oxygen during such activities.
However, the level of fitness does not have a significant effect on cognitive function. Harada argued that all come from the regular physical activity. In their study, the authors found that after 3 months of jogging for 30 minutes several times a week, the subjects significantly improved their results for a number of cognitive tests. However, as soon as participants stopped regular physical activity, their performance dropped. Since the fitness level of the subjects did not decrease as sharply as their results of cognitive tests, the researchers assumed that the main improvement in cognitive functions from to the physical activity is due to an increase in the flow of oxygen to the brain. Another study found that additional oxygen supply significantly improves response time and memory formation.
Needless to say, an active lifestyle is necessary to maintain physical and mental health. However, it’s not always easy to stay active. There are several tips for how to start being active and don’t give up your active lifestyle.
- Start slowly. If you have not been exercising for a long time, a sharp start will quickly overtake you and may result in you ‘over-doing’ it. Therefore, start slowly, having previously consulted with your doctor to take the necessary precautions. Start with 5-10 minutes a day and increase the duration of training over time.
- Set your goals. Turn your physical activity into a competition or a challenge. Set and achieve various goals in order to track your progress and not lose interest.
- Keep it fun. When exercise becomes simply a routine, you begin to look for excuses not to do it. Physical activity should be fun, so make sure that the activity that you have chosen adds the smile to your face.
Anna Clarke is the owner of online writing company 15 Writers. She is a successful entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience in both freelancing and academic writing industries, specialising in Business, Economics, Finance, Marketing and Management.