Aerobic Exercise Helps Your Brain

by Henry Gould – Jan 15th, 2019

Who doesn’t love a little Pop-Sci, Click-Bait health news?? I do, I do!

Most are aware that maintaining a lifestyle centered around a good diet and regular exercise means a much lower risk of disease, and an overall greater quality of mental health. Eating healthy and getting enough physical activity can be difficult given the modern lives many of us live, where easy access to refined sugary foods are available anytime, and working out is limited to when we have time before or after work.

A sedentary lifestyle can have very negative health implications (Cambridge says it can be worse than obesity), but often the focus is on systemic health rather than mental. In addition to the psychological impacts that inactivity can have on mood and depression, there is very interesting research to suggest exercise and aerobic activity can actually assist in brain function.

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A recent study from the Mayo Clinic suggests the benefits of aerobic exercise might be even more pronounced than previously thought. 2,100 adults ranging in age from 21 – 84 years old were evaluated for aerobic fitness by measuring their peak oxygen intake. Then, MRI scans were done on the brains of the participants, and those who had a greater peak oxygen intake were seen to have more developed volume of grey matter in the brain.

Dr. Brian Goldman of CBC’s “White Coat, Black Art” does a very good job breaking down the study here, so have a read through. I find this particularly interesting, as it seems to now validate what a professor had told me in university about going for a run before an exam. Their theory was that exercise helped stimulate the brain to perform better, as it was having to perform many complex tasks during the exercise that would then activate the neurons for remembering all the information for the test.

Running or lifting weights may seem mindless, but in reality these are highly complex movement patterns, requiring the brain to focus on breathing, moving heavy objects through space (without hurting yourself), or in the case or running, balance, direction and sight all done at a faster pace than normal.

So for anybody that has a big test coming up, maybe a 1 hour Yard Athletics workout is more effective than that last minute cramming…

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