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Exercising For Brain Health​

To many of us, exercising is all about achieving physical fitness. Well, it’s not so. Physical exercise also helps us maintain our mental fitness, by improving our neurological and psychological wellbeing. Studies conducted across the world have consistently proved that exercise improves cognition (ability to think and decide), self-confidence and overall quality of life and significantly decreases stress, anxiety and depression.

When you exercise, the blood flow in your brain increases, which in turn has a positive effect on your entire body. This includes:
• Increased availability and production of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body by relaying signals between nerve cells called “neurons’)
• Stimulation of brain monoamine
• Stimulation of neurotrophins (are a family of proteins that induce the survival, development, and function of neuron)
• Decrease in brain atrophy (loss of neurons and connections between them)
• Reduced inflammation
• Increase in brain plasticity (the ability of the brain to change throughout life)
• Neurogenesis (the process in which neurons are generated from neural stem cells) in the hippocampus (centre of emotion, memory and the autonomic nervous system)
• Increased neuron survival; helps recover faster from brain injuries

Exercise is also found to be a crucial element management of movement disorders like Parkinson’s Disease as it helps in strength conditioning, attaining better balance and improves the ability to release a contraction by around 30%.

Exercise & the hippocampus

​Hippocampus, the brain centre for learning and memory, gets activated when you exercised. Besides, recent studies show that exercise, especially running, increases production of Brain Derived Growth Factor or BDGF (a chemical released in the brain that protects neurons and promotes their growth) in the hippocampus.

Exercise & self-esteem

A person’s self-esteem or the confidence they have in themselves is separated into various components like athletic, scholastic, social, behavioural and physical. Exercise improves the athletic component of self-esteem, which in turn improves the athletic competence, fitness, strength and attractiveness. Physical activity has a positive impact on social self-esteem too. Being a part of a playing team or even being acknowledged by fellow walkers brings about a feeling of acceptance and belonging.

Exercise & depression​

Lack of physical activity makes a person feel lazy, unattractive and guilty, which in turn makes him or her spiral into depression. Exercise is a great anti-depressant and people who follow a physically active lifestyle are found to be more mentally healthy than those who don’t. ​

​Exercise & cognition

​Regular exercise improves your memory and ability to learn. Studies have proved that physical activity can delay or even prevent cognitive function loss. Even a relatively small amount of physical activity (around 4 hours of light exercise per week) is said to lower the risk of dementia.

​Exercise in children and adolescents

Exercise is very, very crucial for healthy mental and physical development in children and adolescents. The intensity and amount of time spent exercising significantly correlate with the psychological profiles of children aged 8 to10. Studies show that children who engage in moderate physical activity for 3-4 hours regularly are comparatively more agile, alert, happy, attentive, responsive, positive and efficient. ​

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