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The brain is the most complex structure known to humankind.
The prefrontal cortex is directly behind your forehead and is essential for decision making, maintaining focus and the development of your personality.
The temporal lobes are just behind your ears. Deep within the temporal lobe is a structure critical to your long-term memory of facts and events. That structure is called the hippocampus, which is a basically a built-in memory stick.
Exercise is one of the most transformative things you can do for your brain and it has an immediate effect.
A single workout in the gym, a fitness class or brisk walk will increase levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. These feel-good chemicals can help to lift your mood and have a calming effect on the nervous system. A single spell of exercise has also been shown to have further positive effects on the brain such as improved reaction times, greater stability and improved focus.
Therefore, long-term and regular exercise can have a profound impact on our mood, mental outlook, self-esteem and self-efficacy. There is a significant correlation between exercise and reduced levels of anxiety, stress and depression.
Exercise changes the brain’s anatomy, physiology and function. Within the hippocampus, exercise produces new brain cells increasing its volume and resultant long-term memory capacity.
We can view the brain as a muscle that requires regular work outs and the more physical activity you complete, the larger and more efficient your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex become.
You may be wondering why we are focusing on these two key areas of the brain.
The hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex are the two parts of the brain most susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases and normal cognitive decline as we age. Increased levels of physical activity will ultimately help you build a stronger, efficient and more resilient control centre and protect against the damaging and far-reaching effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
What is the minimum amount of physical activity we need to do to get these big brain benefits? The good news is you don’t need to be an athlete with government guidelines recommending a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. This can be split up into just over 20 minutes per day and this moderate exercise can be anything from a formal gym session or exercise class to a brisk walk, cycle or gardening.
If you or someone you know is interested in getting fitter and improving their brain function check out our website at www.lornhealthyoptions.co.uk and self-refer to our Thrive programme. It may just be the smartest decision you make this year.
Cameron Johnson, exercise professional, Healthy Options.