Did you know that exercise is not only good for your body but it can also enhance your brain function? Engaging in regular moderate exercise can improve memory, concentration and mental sharpness. Exercise can also help you feel more energetic, lift your mood and lower feelings of stress and anxiety. By increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain, memory function is stimulated through the release of hormones and brain chemicals. This stimulates brain plasticity, increasing growth of new connections around the brain. Do you ever feel the afternoon slump in energy or concentration at work? Rather than turning to caffeine or a chocolate bar for a boost, try going for a quick walk instead!
Tips to enhance the brain boosting effects of exercise:
1. Exercise with other people – Exercising with other people challenges your brain, increases social engagement, helps keep you motivated and let’s be honest, is more fun! Why not try a walking group, dance lesson, aqua aerobics class or join a gardening club.
2. Exercise outdoors – Mixing up the landscape to include city, beach, bush or neighborhood walks can make exercise more mentally stimulating. Try and add in some stairs or a hill to get your heart pumping and increase oxygen to your brain.
3. Exercise with mental stimulation – Enhance brain function by choosing an activity that challenges both physical and mental demands. Dancing and sport are great examples as they require coordination, rhythm and strategy which integrate different parts of the brain.
4. Exercise regularly – The current exercise guidelines for health benefits are 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least 5 days a week. Stay well hydrated as strenuous or extended exercise sessions that lead to dehydration can compromise brain function. A well-balanced program will include balance skills, strengthening and core exercises.
It is important to speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.