With colder weather and the threat of COVID-19, many of us are staying home, which can mean limited opportunities for regular exercise. But finding ways to get the blood pumping is critical not just to our physical health, but also to our brain health.
"When we exercise it increases our heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to our brain. It also releases hormones that provide a really great environment for the growth of brain cells which is just really important," says Justin Jones, Health and wellness consultant for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah.
Jones says the old adage of "sound mind, sound body," is true, and regular exercise promotes what is known as brain plasticity, which allows our brains to adapt and grow.
“So, this brain plasticity increases the health of our brains. It also increases the brain volume, which has been shown to help buffer against the effects of dementia," says Jones.
The best part, is that it doesn't take much exercise to do our brains a big favor. Jones explains that, "Each hour of light intensity physical activity, along with 75 hundred daily steps was associated with a higher total brain volume which is an important metric.”
Exercise can also relieve stress, which can really help when our brains get overloaded with the inevitable ups and downs of everyday life.
“We know that exercise improves mood, improves sleep, it can decrease anxiety, it can decrease depression, and we know that the long-term effects of these problems can impair cognitive health," says Jones.
And while we can't turn back time, Jones says studies consistently show that regular exercise can slow down the brain's aging process. So keep keep on moving. Get that regular exercise and stay on the road to better brain health.