Tip written by Marc Esteve, personal trainer at Metropolitan Balmes, BBHI collaborator in the exercise pilar.
Physical exercise of adequate intensity activates our sympathetic system and, among many other things, makes our blood begin to circulate rapidly throughout the body and causes a series of chemical substances to be secreted.
Not only do the areas we are moving receive more blood, nutrients and oxygen, but also the brain, thereby increasing its activity. The secretion of endorphins means that the well-being produced by sports activity is not simply a “sensation” but a measurable and demonstrable physiological response.
But, what kind of exercises have the most impact on brain health?
- Activities with an important aerobic component. Any exercise that involves an increase in heart rate high enough to activate all the processes mentioned above. Running, swimming, brisk walking or circuit training would be good examples of recommended sports practices.
- Exercise in nature enhances the effects of the activity. The vitamin D that we synthesize from exposure to the sun in our outdoor workouts is very beneficial for the health and proper function of the metabolism, as well as for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Exposure during the day can help you sleep better at night, improve immune function and increase the production of “happiness hormones”. Outdoor sports activity is also used as a frequent treatment for depression and other mood disorders.
- Team sports and group classes offer us a social component that can increase the positive effects of exercise on our mood. Social relationships in any activity boost the participants’ motivation to continue doing the activity.
- Exercises with a high metabolic intensity (prescribed and controlled by a qualified professional) produce a greater hormonal response than low intensity ones and we should include them in our “brain health” program.
- Exercises that involve conscious acts of memory, coordination, decision-making and concentration serve to stimulate the brain, not only passively but also actively. The variability in the training, the environment, the material used and the type of practice are also key factors in preventing the brain from getting used to the stimuli and in helping it to keep functioning properly.
- It has recently been found that exercises involving grip strength tend to stimulate areas of the brain that are related to dementia. Therefore, this type of exercise should be included in the usual health programs.
Exercise is not only good for your health on the outside, but also on the inside. The “magic pill” that we have in the twenty-first century to combat neurodegenerative diseases, premature aging, depression, stress, anxiety and many more disorders related to the mind is called “controlled, prescribed physical exercise”.
References for the article:
Gladwell et al., 2013 / Pludowsky et al., 2013 / Nathaniel et al., 2008. / Mackay & Neill, 2010. / Ryan & Powelson, 1991. / MacInnis MJ et al., 2017. / González-Cutre et al., 2016. / Kim JH, 2018.