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27 Sep 2013

Physical Exercise Improves Brain Function

There is a link between regular physical exercise and healthy brain function, with physical exertion affecting the brain on multiple fronts.  Not only does regular exercise pump more oxygen to the brain and aid the body in the release of hormones, recent studies have also shown a direct link between physical activity and a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer's disease.  Increasingly, it is being found that activities such as running and swimming are even better for your brain than a game of chess or cryptic crossword.
While the brain is instrumental in the creation of the mind, on another level, it's really no different than the rest of the muscles in your body.  Just like your abdominals or gluteus maximus, you either use it or lose it.  In one study released by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, it was found that as little as 20 minutes of exercise is enough to facilitate information processing and memory functions.  Aerobic activity is especially good at enhancing cognitive functions through increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain.

reduce stress and depression by increasing cell growth in the hippocampus.  One study by the Department of Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden described running as an effective natural antidepressant.  Along with direct physiological effects in the brain,regular exercise has also been found to boost the level of 'feel-good' hormones such as serotonin and raise self-esteem.  

In another study published last October in the journal Neurology, researchers found a strong and direct correlation between increasing physical exercise and decreasing brain shrinkage.  "People in their seventies who participated in more physical exercise, including walking several times a week, had less brain shrinkage and other signs of aging in the brain than those who were less physically active," said lead author Alan J. Gow from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

A recent study in Australia also looked at how physical exercise affects ageing, with people who perform regular physical activity shown to have healthier brains and a reduced chance of developing Alzheimer's disease.  According to Dr Maree Farrow, co-author of a paper released by Alzheimer's Australia and Fitness Australia, "About half of Alzheimer's disease cases are potentially attributable to risk factors you can change."  A related study by US researchers showed that around 13 percent of Alzheimer's disease cases are attributable to physical inactivity.

While a game of chess or 500-piece puzzle are definitely a good way to facilitate brain function, physical exercise may be an even better way to look after your grey matter.  Whether it's a run in the park, a workout at the gym, or a simple walk on the beach, time and time again, it has been found that looking after your body is one of the best ways to look after your brain.