The benefit of exercise on the body has been talked about for years, but what needs more discussion is the mental benefits of exercise. The brain needs exercise in order to combat aging, function properly and keep mood positive. Here's why.
The effect of exercise on the brain is profound. Several studies of exercise and mental health have observed large differences in memory ability, critical thinking skills, balanced mood and increased learning potential in the subjects who were on a physical exercise routine compared with the subject of the studies that were not. The difference was not minor. What was interesting is that the gap was even wider for studies done on people over 60. Those who did not exercise had a significant drop in mental health and brain function as opposed to those who maintained an active lifestyle.
The mental benefits of exercise begin with increased blood flow to the brain. The brain requires large amounts of oxygen and glucose to fuel the organ and maintain proper function. Decreases in blood flow either due to a sedentary lifestyle or old age is a major factor in mental decline.
Exercise and mental health are also connected by the effect exercise has on neurotransmitters. Studies done measuring the effect of exercise on neurotransmitters revealed that increased activity aided the body in producing higher levels of various brain chemicals necessary for function, mood improvement and memory. Exercise increases endorphins, which affect mood and decrease pain as well as increases aceytlcholine, which supports memory and mental processing in addition to voluntary muscle movement.
Exercise and mental health experts also noticed that exercise levels also impacted the number of pathways through the body for acetylcholine. This directly effects the ability of the chemical to work within the body.
One of the more interesting of the mental benefits of exercise is how it combats aging. It seems that exercise has a positive effect on nerve cell health and in many ways is directly linked with how long those cells live. Exercise maintains healthy cells and also helps enhance the activity of antioxidants which protect cells from free radical damage, one of the leading causes of cell damage related to the aging process.
Exercise also helps the body reduce the risk of stroke and clotting which can lead to deep vein thrombosis and death. This is important for not only our lives but for reducing the risk of damage to the brain that can result for stroke or clotting. This becomes increasingly important as we age and the circulatory system become more fragile.
One encouraging note in all this is that researchers found that even if a person has been inactive for much of their lives they can still receive the mental benefits of exercise whenever they start. It is important to start as early as you can, but any age will see improvement when they begin to increase exercise. The choice you make in this area can determine the quality of your mental health and how well you can function in later life. Whatever your age, get active.The Mental Benefits of Exercise and Its Influence on Mood, Function and Aging