How Physical Exercise Affects Your Brain

It is true that we exercise mainly to avoid obesity, blood pressure and heart deseases. But do you know that exercising reguarly improves your cognitive functions? In other words, working out your body improves your learning abilities. It helps finish one more chapter or take another round of flashcards.

John Ratey, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, says that “Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning. Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain.”

Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School, says “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.”

At the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise can increase the hippocampal volume in the brain of older women. The hippocampus sits in the limbic system and allows to transfer information from the short-term memory to the long-term memory. The research was done on a group of women diagnosed with probable mild cognitive impairment. You can guess what happens to a normal hippocampus when we exercise.

Figure: the hippocampus part of the limbic system – excerpt from Wikipedia

You probably are now tempted to start a workout routine. But you don’t know which workout is better. It doesn’t matter, as long as you stick to it.

I have a preference for workout programs made by professionals. My all-time favourite is P90X, by Tony Horton. I love the variation of exercises

What about you? What are your favourite workout routines? What is your top exercise program?

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