Why Your Brain Needs Physical Exercise
“Is it too late to start exercising?” On the one hand, it’s never too soon to start. On the other, it’s effective no matter how late we begin. Such is the relationship between physical activity and brain health.
Not so long ago, medical science still believed that we stopped making new brain cells when we were very young. All we could do about the mental decline of old age, we were told, was accept it. Now, we know differently: neurogenesis, or the creation of new cells in the brain, can take place continually—as long as we do the things necessary to foster it.
One of the main things we can do is move.
Study after study reveals evidence of how aerobic and strength-building exercise directly bring about the growth of new cells in the hippocampus region of the brain—the area that controls short-term and long-term memory, as well as spatial navigation. Researchers have also found countless other ways in which physical activity influences the mechanisms that support cognitive function as we age.
The results are stunning: regular physical exercise can reduce the risk for developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50 percent. Big Pharma has yet to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, or a drug to halt or reverse dementia and the deterioration and disruption that may take place in the aged brain that has such a profound effect as exercise.
The reality is we may never find one.
But we already have something much better than a cure. Along with the other pillars of Brain Longevity, diet and supplements, stress management through yoga and meditation, mental exercise, and spirituality – we have a way to prevent it.
Regardless of age, we all are mentally fresher and sharper when we get regular, vigorous physical activity. It’s built into our DNA. For most of our time on this planet, we humans didn’t need to seek out exercise. It was an unavoidable fact of our existence. We had to move, to walk or run or swim or row, to lift and carry, climb and stretch, just to survive. It’s hard to imagine a moment in our distant past where a couple would come home from a long day working in the fields—and then decide to go for a nice jog around the barn.