"Exercise is a powerful tool with a special impact on how our brains work."
It energizes our bodies, causing us to take deeper breaths and helping the ability of the brain to change itself. It can improve brain agility. Those who exercise achieve better brain function, such as emotional regulation and flexible thinking, and can more easily switch between tasks. Research shows exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia by 30%.
High-intensity exercise is particularly effective on brain function. Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor is involved in brain cell survival and repair, mood regulation, and cognitive functions like learning and memory. Low BDNF levels are associated with a host of mental health disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Fortunately, when we engage in enjoyable exercise, our brains release more BDNF than when the exercise feels like a chore. Intention appears to be important in brain activity. A brisk walk essentially “future-proofs” the brain. A possible growth of new cells caused by BDNF and an increase in oxygen-supplying blood vessels expand areas of the brain, during times of intense exercise.
For those who struggle with maintaining habits around regular exercise, there is good news. Individuals who do not engage in regular exercise can experience higher levels of neurogenesis, or growth of new brain cells, once they start aerobic exercise, compared to those frequently engage in exercise.
"The sooner you start moving, the sooner you will build up your smarts."
To learn more about what exercises help expand your brain for better mental health, visit this Fast Company article.