How Exercise Can Help Your Brain

Aerobic Exercise improves memory, multi-tasking, and more

We all know that exercise has many beneficial effects on the human body. It can even help you get rid of headaches! However, even more benefits can be had from exercising, particularly for your brain, according to some recent research.

In 100 recent animal and human studies — and as we touched on slightly in a recent post — both strength training and aerobic exercise were shown to play an important part in maintaining brain health and preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s. These studies ranged from kids to adults and shows that aerobic exercise is beneficial for getting an early start in childhood on cognitive ability, which can actually make children smarter and improve memory. Even skills like multi-tasking and planning are shown to improve with aerobic exercise.

According to the research, aerobic training in late life benefits executive functions, including brain processes such as multi-tasking, planning, and inhibition, all largely supported by the prefrontal cortex. Several fMRI studies have examined the effects of aerobic training on brain function. Aerobically trained older adults had greater increases in brain activity in the frontal and parietal cortices from pre- to postintervention, brain areas involved in processes important for task performance, such as conflict resolution and selective attention. Aerobically trained adults also had greater reduction in anterior cingulate cortex activation, a brain area involved in conflict and error monitoring.

Exercise stimulates the growth of new blood vessels and nerve cells and increases the generation of neurochemicals, such as IGF-1 and BDNF, which promote growth, survival, differentiation and repair of brain cells, similar to some natural supplements like these.