Posts Tagged ‘Exercise improves mood’

Sure, we all want toned abs, a firm stomach and muscular legs. But what about our brain? Does it benefit from exercise like the rest of our body? Should we keep in shape physically as a way to keep strong mentally as well?

The answer is an emphatic “YES”! Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that even ten minutes of activity can change our brain in several ways, including our mood, memory, and ability to learn. If you’re the type of person that needs the extra incentive to grab the tee-shirt, water bottle and hit the gym, here’s a short list of the improvements that exercise can have on your brain health:

  • Improves Mood 

Research has show that exercising three times a week and burning 350 calories each time can be as effective for reducing depression about as effectively as antidepressant medication.  The science behind the effect is exercise has been found to stimulate growth of neurons in parts of the brain that have been damaged during depression.  Animal studies have shown that brain molecules which  improve neuron connections are boosted by exercise as well.

  • Helps Develop Learning

Chemicals in the brain that help make new brain cells and create connections are called “growth factors”.  Physical activity helps increase the level of these chemicals in the brain to enhance learning.  The more complicated the physical activity, the higher the brain-boost.  When you’re taking a dance class and learning new moves, your brain cells are challenged which causes them to grow, just like our muscles.  Complex activities increase our learning capacity by enhancing our attention and concentration skills.

  • Relieves Effects of Stress

You may be familiar with the stress-relieving chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.  However, exercise has been shown to work in our cells to reverse stress of the aging process.  In a study conducted at the University of California – San Francisco, women who identified themselves as being under extreme stress showed fewer signs of aging in their body cells after exercising an average of forty-five minutes a day over a three-day period compared to women who were stressed but were not physically active.  Blood flow in areas of the brain during exercise helps  trigger chemcials that can relieve stressful thoughts.

  • Build Body Image

A little bit of fitness goes a long way towards helping your body get in shape and building self-esteem.  You don’t have to run a marathon to feel good about yourself and your physical achievements!


Source:  U.S. News & World Report, August, 2010.

Author:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County.

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