Everyone knows that exercise is important for the body. It burns excess calories leaving you lean and healthy. It also has a myriad other benefits, but one of the least known is its positive impact on the brain. Scientists have in the recent past been conducting studies that have proved that there is a link between physical exercise and brain health. So how exactly does getting busy and sweating impact your mental health?
Balanced brain blood glucose levels
Having excess glucose in your brain is harmful. Unfortunately, this is what happens in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Your cells require glucose for energy but first, this fuel has to cross the cell membrane and into the cell’s inside. To do this, the glucose rides on a hormone called insulin.
People with type two diabetes have an anomaly which causes their cell systems to be non-responsive to insulin. Sometimes, their bodies just cannot produce any of the hormone at all. This leads to excess glucose in the brain. Research by Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD, University in Norfolk’s professor in the department of Exercise Science, has shown that exercise can force the cells to take in the glucose without insulin. This not only happens during exercise but can go on for hours after your workout session is over.
Better executive function
Executive function is defined as the collective mental skills that enable you to plan, think critically, multitask, and adapt to new conditions. Unfortunately, these abilities wane as you age. A good way to stop the loss of executive function is through exercise. One study focused on a group of adult participants between 55 and 80 years old. The results showed that subjects that exercised regularly retained their executive functions by 4 times more than those that led sedentary lives.
What exercise is the best?
So what exercise should you perform? Fortunately, it does not have to be intense. In one study, rats were separated into 3 groups. One group was made to run continuously in a running wheel fitted in their cages. The other group was made to perform resistance training by fitting them with weights then making them crawl up a wall. The third group engaged in high-intensity exercise by running on tread mills. When the results were out, those that engaged in jogging had developed the densest neurons in their hippocampus.
The study concluded that while high intensity or heavy resistance training can do your muscles some good, the best exercise for better brain health are aerobics. You can get tremendous mental benefits just by jogging for 40 minutes three times a week.