Physical movement has been shown to play a big part in improving brain health and cognitive function.
Neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to reorganize, adapt, and grow by forming new neural connections throughout life – is heavily influenced by our behaviours and experiences. Among these behaviours, physical activity has proven to be a powerful tool in promoting brain health and enhancing cognitive capabilities.
When we exercise and move, we stimulate the release of neurochemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF, especially, plays a crucial role in promoting the growth of new neurons and strengthening existing connections. Physical activity, whether it’s aerobic exercise, strength training, or yoga, creates an environment that encourages neuroplasticity.
Movement also influences brain health by improving blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, enhancing nutrient supply and waste removal, supporting overall brain function. Physical activities also trigger the production of endorphins, reducing stress and anxiety, positively impacting the brain.
Exercise Your Way to a Healthier Brain
- Aerobic Exercises: Activities like running, swimming, and cycling increase blood flow to the brain and have been shown to improve memory, attention, and cognitive flexibility. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into your routine most days of the week.
- Strength Training: Strength training stimulates the release of BDNF and improves executive functions like problem-solving and decision-making. Start with bodyweight exercises or resistance bands and gradually progress.
- Yoga and Mindfulness: Yoga encourages relaxation and stress reduction, contributing to a balanced mental state. Poses that involve balance and coordination also challenge the brain’s neural pathways.
- Quadrupedal Movement Training: Movement systems that get you down on the floor like Animal Flow improve brain health by engaging multiple muscle groups, challenging coordination by getting your brain and body to work together in new ways, and enhancing proprioception, or your perception of your body in space.
- Dance: Dancing is not only fun but also a great way to engage both your body and mind. Learning new dance routines stimulates memory and coordination, while the rhythmic movements release endorphins, enhancing mood.
- Neurobics: Exercises designed to challenge your brain’s neural pathways like juggling, learning a new musical instrument, or practicing complex coordination drills, force your brain to create new connections, fostering neuroplasticity.
The connection between movement and neuroplasticity highlights the remarkable capacity of the brain to adapt and evolve throughout life. When we incorporate a range of physical activities into our routine, we can enhance brain health, boost cognitive function, and support the growth of new neural connections. It’s never too late to start – your brain will benefit from the effort you put into keeping it agile and resilient through movement.