Did you know? Exercise is actually even more important for brain health than it is for your body. In fact, brains evolved to allow animals to move- so if you want to keep your brain smart, it’s really important to move your body every day. In this article, you’ll learn how exercise makes you smarter, and some ways to make it easier to incorporate more exercise into your daily life.
How Exercise Affects the Brain
How do we know that the brain is built for movement? There’s an interesting story about a creature called the sea squirt. This primitive animal hatches from an egg, and is born with a brain, a spinal cord, an eye, and a tail for swimming. For the first part of its life, it swims through the ocean, looking for a suitable place to plant itself. Once it finds this location (which could be on any surface, such as the ocean floor, a rock, or the bottom of a boat), it attaches itself to the surface, eats its own brain, and never moves again. Scientists believe that because the sea squirt needs its brain when it swims, and no longer requires it once it stops moving, that the brain is a tool that evolved for the sole purpose of allowing motion.
Thousands of studies suggest that motion is deeply connected with learning. In fact, when you read or hear the word “kick”, for example, the part of your brain that controls your leg is actually activated. This is true of all of your body’s functions. Movement such as swinging, rolling, and jumping have been shown to enhance attention and reading skills. Not surprisingly, the part of the brain that processes speech and decision making is larger in people who exercise, than those who do not. If you’re worried that you have not been active enough, it’s never too late to start: studies have shown that regular exercise over the course of six months to a year actually increases the volume of multiple regions of the brain.
Exercise benefits the brain in many ways. Some of the most obvious benefits include increased blood flow and oxygen to brain cells, which physically boosts brain size and slows brain degradation. Exercise causes your body to release growth factors, which are youth-boosting compounds that negate the effects of aging. Movement also reduces insulin resistance and inflammation, helps build new blood vessels in the brain, and promotes the longevity of brain cells. This means that exercise staves off diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
So how do you stay smart, and keep your brain healthy throughout your life? Stay active! As an extra boost, try our tea, An Elephant Never Forgets, to boost your brain health benefits that come from exercise. Also, if you have trouble exercising due to painful joints or other body parts, make Inflammation Relief a part of your daily routine. It will not only allow you to move more easily, but it will stave off inflammation in your brain, which is the source of many brain diseases.
Tips for Staying Active
It is very important to build a positive relationship with exercise. A common reason that people do not exercise is that they view working out as a chore. If you feel this way, know that there are many types of movement which you would find enjoyable! Exercise should be fun! It could mean going for a daily walk or hike in a scenic area, joining a dance class, relaxing with yoga, or mastering an obstacle course. Exercise should be play time!
It’s also a good idea to incorporate gentle movement throughout your day. Our ancestors did not have gyms to work out- but they were on their feet most of the day, and engaged in relatively short bursts of rigorous activity (such as running from predators). Following this model, try to incorporate small tasks into your daily life. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or get up and walk or do some jumping jacks every half hour when you are working at your desk. This will also boost your focus, mood, and motivation.
Lastly, if you need an energy boost to help you get moving, try a tea like Ginseng Green Dragon, or for caffeine-free options, I Heart Pomegranates or An Elephant Never Forgets, which help boost circulation and brain function. These can help you get the extra boost you need to build better exercise habits, or help you maintain the ones you have.
Do you have a favorite exercise routine? Comment below!