Exercise and your Brain- Should I? Why? How? When?
Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Dr. Porrselvi A.P., Founder and Cognitive Neuropsychologist, Unified Brain Health Care
Exercise benefits the brain of children, young adults, and older adults. It is free and can be done by anyone, in any form, at anytime and anywhere. But still, most of us find it hard to have a regular exercise regime. I am going to try to pull you out of that rut with this article.
In children and young adults, regular exercise has shown to increase the brain’s Hippocampal volume.
What is the Hippocampus?
It is the part of your brain right behind your ear which helps you in learning new things and remembering things- old and new. This is the part of the brain that is affected in Alzheimer’s Disease and other related dementias. So, if you have more of it, you are likely to delay onset of dementia or can cope with memory loss better as you get older.
In a research study it was shown that just walking regularly as an exercise regime for a span of one week started undoing years of hippocampal damage in older adults. The hippocampal structure started showing good changes in just one week! So even if you have a sedentary lifestyle now, you can choose to start exercising at any point of your lifespan and your brain will start benefitting. The best part about this is that you can start today, and you can do as much exercise as you want.
I get questions from clients if they cannot just have a prescription for drugs that can help with brain health? According to research, even cognitive stimulant drugs available in the market have not shown so much difference in the brain as a little exercise every day. And as already mentioned, Exercise is free with no negative side-effects.
How much should I exercise?
Some exercise is always better than none. So, even 10 minutes has been shown to be better than no exercise. It is recommended that you get 150 minutes of moderate intensity per week. What is moderate intensity exercise? When you are done with your exercise you should be able to speak but not sing. What matters is the total accumulation of minutes in a week. So, it can be just 5 or 10 minutes in one go or a whole 30 to 40 minutes- the only key is it must be of moderate intensity. You can even do just 5 minutes of exercise, 5 times a day and still accumulate your minutes.
How long can benefits of exercise persist?
If you keep exercising, you keep reaping the benefits. You stop, you lose. So, if you were a hockey player in your college but after that you stopped active exercise, you have lost the benefits and you need to begin again today.
What kind of exercise should I do?
You must do any exercise that can increase your heart rate. When there is no heart rate increase, normal aging processes work, and the hippocampus gradually shrinks over the years. You can do stretching, weight training or aerobics. Early studies suggest a combination of the three is the best. Stretching alone has not shown benefits. But
Aerobics alone or Resistance training alone have shown benefits.
I am obese, should I exercise, diet, or watch my weight?
Weight Reduction can be a goal and you should always watch what and how much you eat but Regular Exercise is more important.
Exercise has a widespread influence on a variety of systems in the body and a whole spectrum of diseases. Exercise does not have the ability to reverse and cure disease processes that have already taken place in your body but it can improve function and possibly delay severe symptoms. So even if you already have a diagnosis, it would be a good idea to exercise regularly.
When you exercise throughout your lifespan, it reduces risk significantly for Dementia, ADHD, Schizophrenia, Depression, Mood Disorders and Heart ailments. So, parents and grandparents need to build exercise into the lifestyle of children. Exercise can also facilitate positive behaviour changes which have far and long reaching benefits.
So, there is absolutely no excuse for you to not exercise TODAY.
Unified Brain Health Care is one of a kind integrated Neuro Rehabilitation Centre in Chennai for adults and children offering in person and online therapy in Cognitive Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Clinical Nutrition, Career Counselling, Fitness Coaching and Educational Intervention. We also offer Family and Marriage Counselling, help for PCOS, care during pregnancy, post-pregnancy care for new moms, infant and early childhood stimulation, infant and young child nutrition, care for caregivers and promote holistic brain health.