Usually, when we talk about exercise, we talk about the health benefits it has on your body. But did you know that it has some significant benefits for your brain health too? Studies show that physical exercise can actually boost your brain’s performance.
How exercise affects your brain
After a stroke, the body needs to repair and protect the brain. And amazingly it can. The brain has the capacity to change and adapt according to needs and new experiences. This ability is called plasticity, and it is exactly how the brain can form new connections and start to relearn things that were lost because of a stroke. The other function of the brain that helps in healing is called neuroprotection. This function is the brain repairing itself and protecting itself against trauma.
And here is where exercise fits in. When we exercise, our bodies activate genes that are responsible for both plasticity and neuroprotection, and then they can do their work.
More exercise is better
In animal studies, scientists have found that multiple short bouts of exercise result in increased plasticity for a certain amount of time. This finding would indicate that right after exercising, the capacity for the brain to form new connections is higher than usual. What does this mean for us without fur? It means that if we engage in aerobic activity before motor training, we can improve the outcome of that training. The physical exercise activates the genes involved in plasticity, and therefore we can learn something new more effectively.
This phenomenon also reaches beyond just the function you were focusing on. In fact, it increases general plasticity which means you’ll probably experience improvements in many aspects of your recovery. And the more active you are, the more benefits you can expect to see.
How much exercise is enough?
Although there is no set threshold as to how much you should exercise, you should aim to move about 150 minutes per week. That’s a little over 20 minutes a day. If you aren’t able to do that yet, remember that every increase in exercise is beneficial to your health. Find an activity that’s fun for you and do what you can. The important thing is that you sit less and adopt a more active lifestyle. If you want to see improvements, get moving!
The lead authors of the original articles are:
- Darren E.R.Warburton from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
- Sharon Flora Kramer from The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health,
The more we move our bodies, the more we can help our brain heal.