The Benefits to the Brain From Moving Your Body

You can't walk away from your problems—unless your problem is a scattered brain

Studies show that you can actually grow new brain cells if you can get your heart rate up for a minimum of 15 to 30 minutes per day. (Chanan Greenblatt/Unsplash)
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By Nisha Jackson

The sad reality is that your brain shrinks with age. As we grow older, our memory, concentration, and focus can fade. Statistics show that every three seconds, somewhere in the world, a new patient is diagnosed with dementia.

You often hear people talking about their fading memory, loss of concentration, and shoddy focus. Today, many people are concerned that they are losing their mind when they forget what they are doing five seconds after thinking about it (at any age).

These aren’t always signs of dementia, since we are more distracted than ever. And yet, with the rise in dementia, it’s wise to take care of your brain. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to enhance the brain’s good working status and to actually improve how well the brain functions as you age. We now know through research that the brain can regenerate at any age and giving it what it needs is the answer to making a good brain great.

Exercise is key to brain health. Moving your body just makes sense. If you can consistently move your body to get your heart rate up for a minimum of 15 to 30 minutes per day, studies show that you can actually grow new brain cells. This all about oxygen and circulation. There isn’t a part of your body that can be at peak health without oxygen and good circulation.

So instead of overworking your brain all week with stress, worry, scattered in-complete thoughts, and sensory input, consider instead refueling with oxygen and increased blood flow through increasing your heart rate and moving your body. The goal here is to establish a habit by doing some form of body movement every day for 30 days.

Try making it a goal that you don’t answer emails, surf social, or sit down after waking up in the morning—until you have done some sort of physical movement. Go for a walk, hike, bike ride, turn on some music and dance, jump rope, or whatever you like for 15 to 30 minutes.

Attempt to get your heart rate up to the point that you are sweating or slightly breathless. Studies show that exercise in the morning allows you to burn more calories, sets your day on the right track for higher production, and enhances mood, energy, and focus for the entire day.

In addition, there is yet another benefit of exercise for the brain. When you consistently move your body for more than six months, there is a little center of the brain called the hippocampus that becomes more activated. This center is responsible for memory, focus, and attention, and is most negatively affected by age and lack of movement or good sleep. This memory center of the brain also shrinks with age, but exercise alone can help prevent this from happening or recharge it if it has already begun shrinking!

There are far more benefits of exercise that are well-publicized but noteworthy of mentioning here:

  • Exercise helps you connect with others socially which is one of the determinants of living longer. We need social connectedness to improve the quality and length of our lives.
  • Exercise allows your brain the space to manage stressful events and to help set your emotional state for the upcoming day.
  • Exercise lowers inflammation, which is connected to body pain, fatigue, autoimmune disorders, and dementia.
  • Exercise is an extremely effective tool for managing and treating depression and anxiety.
  • Exercise helps you control your eating, cravings, and overall weight as you age.
  • Exercise regularly enhances deeper sleep at night; restoring your body and brain.

So, the next time you get frustrated that you can’t remember the simplest things or your focus wanders like a fly, think about how much you are moving your body daily and treat yourself to a good brisk walk!

Nisha Jackson is a nationally recognized hormone and functional medicine expert, renowned lecturer, motivational speaker, radio host, columnist, author of the bestseller “Brilliant Burnout,” and founder of OnePeak Medical Clinics in Oregon. For 30 years, her approach to medicine has successfully reversed chronic problems such as fatigue, brain fog, depression, insomnia, and lack of stamina.

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