Exercising for Optimal Brain Function

Written by: Brian Cardillo, General Manager, O2 Fitness Carrboro

Lets take a step back and think about why we exercise?

There are many reasons why – physical appearance, athletics and to simply stay healthy.  Any reason you choose to exercise is a great one.  But have you ever thought about what this does to your most important organ, your brain?

brain_benefits1

That thing you have floating inside your skull benefits from working out just as much as your 24 inch python biceps and chiseled abs.  Working out consistently will cause your brain to work at optimum capacity. In return your nerve cells (nerve cells send and receive messages) will multiply and strengthen their own connections, protecting them from damage.

Sounds superhuman, right?  There is more.

As you workout, your nerve cells produce a protein that aids in preventing brain and muscle decay.  This specific protein also triggers other chemicals that promote neural health.

Have you ever felt like you’re floating or a little spacey after a workout?

If your brain acknowledges that you just completed an intense workout, it will release pleasure chemicals.  Serotonin and dopamine will make you feel lucid and relaxed.  Basically, you can mainline happiness at any point in your life just by working out.  Thinking outside the box, the brain could be releasing those chemicals simply because you are aiding its longevity.

A balanced blend of strength/cardiovascular training, stretching and core exercises will be the best way to keep your brain at optimal health. Try yoga to focus on clarity or a high intensity training class for alertness.

There are plenty of other positive effects exercise has on the brain.  Next time you are “in the zone” during your workout, think about how you are improving connections and effectiveness of your brain.  It may go unnoticed now, but since you only have one brain, take care of it in every way possible.

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