Move Your Body to Boost Your Brain

brain-boosting exercises

You already know you need to move your body to stay healthy and fit, but did you know you can do brain-boosting exercises to improve your mental health as well? As you age, keeping your brain (and body) in optimal condition becomes essential. But all ages can benefit mentally from movement—from better focus and learning to engaging all the senses for more expansive brain stimulation throughout life.

Movement Enhances Cognitive Health

Exercise has always been touted as the fountain of youth, physically speaking, but in recent years, researchers have become much more interested in the mental benefits moving your body creates.

It turns out that being sedentary is much more dangerous than previously realized. Not only does your body atrophy with less use, but your brain suffers, too. Moving your body more can help you improve your mental sharpness in a variety of ways, including:

  • Increase cognitive flexibility—it’s not just physical flexibility that’s important as you get older, but mental flexibility, too. Brain plasticity is enhanced by regularly moving your body, especially outdoors, as your body responds to sensory stimulation, allowing your mind to rewire pathways, learn new things, and develop new neural connections.
  • Enhance memory—it seems to be a fact that getting older means forgetting things more often. Exercise can halt, and even reverse, this common side effect of aging by stimulating nerve growth factors that help you build new neurons in the hippocampus, which is the brain’s center for memory and learning.
  • Improve focus—if you’re having trouble concentrating and you’re constantly feeling distracted, a little exercise might be the perfect prescription. Studies show that brain-boosting exercises significantly help cognitive function, including the ability to focus and concentrate as well as develop better conflict-resolution abilities.
  • Reduce your risk of cognitive decline—the extra blood flow and better circulation exercise causes also benefit your brain. Studies show that exercising regularly can help you age better across the board, preventing the normal aging of brain cells along with other tissues as more nutrients are delivered and your system is flushed out regularly.
  • Lessen depression—if you’re feeling depressed, getting up and out can improve your mental state. Exercise releases all kinds of “feel good” hormones like endorphins that can boost your mood and help lift depression.
  • Calm anxiety and stress—anxiety and stress go hand in hand, and they can both be helped with a little bit of movement. While it may seem contrary to your goal, stressing your body with exercise can actually lessen mental stress and anxiety. Plus, the focus you place on exercise forces you to forget about the other stressors in your life while you’re working out, allowing your brain to relax and unwind.

Steps You Can Take to Move Your Body More and Boost Your Brain Health

Ready to get your move on? There are a lot of modifiable habits you can adopt to help boost your brain power. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, exercise can really help you improve your cognitive abilities. Check out the benefits of these common brain-boosting exercises:

  • Aerobic Training—whether taking long brisk walks on the regular or doing formal aerobic exercises like biking, swimming, hiking, classes, or elliptical work, consistent aerobic exercise can help improve your brain power. And, the more vigorous your workout, the more brain benefits you’ll experience. Aerobic exercise, including endurance training, helps delay the normal aging that affects your body. Other age-defying benefits include better insulin sensitivity, less chronic inflammation, reduced body fat, and potentially overall life extension.
  • Strength Trainingstudies also show that adding resistance training to your regular workout routine can greatly enhance your cognitive abilities. And the stronger your physical body gets, the stronger your mind gets, too. Researchers even refer to muscle as the “organ of longevity” since weight training is proven to help limit the progression of many age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and more.
  • Yoga—gentle and calming exercise like yoga has been proven to pack a powerful punch as one of the top brain-boosting exercises. Yoga forces you to focus on your mind and body connection through the synchronization of movement. Research shows that people who practice yoga regularly have advanced cerebral cortexes, allowing them to assimilate information better. Yoga also enhances mental sharpness, reasoning abilities, and accuracy.
  • Spending Time in Natural Settings—spending time in the great outdoors can improve your brain’s abilities as you use your five senses while enjoying a walk through the park, a challenging hike or a bike ride with friends, or digging in the dirt in your garden. Science says that taking your brain-boosting exercises outdoors can magnify the wonderful effects you get. In fact, a moderate outdoor workout affects your brain in ways like an intense indoor workout.

Halt the aging and deterioration that would otherwise occur as you age with brain-boosting exercises. It’s an enjoyable, healthy, and invigorating solution to cognitive decline you can engage in easily.