Our brains and our bodies, one is not much good without the other. It takes our brains to keep our bodies operational. And while there’s no question that exercise is good for the body, there is also mounting evidence that staying physically active can help slow the normal declines in brain function which can come with aging. Physician and scientists who have studied this recommend that adults try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense activity a week to keep their hearts healthy — but is that the same amount that’s needed to keep the brain sharp? The answer is pretty much yes!
“What benefits the body benefits the brain,” says Dianna Purvis Jaffin, PhD, director of strategy and program at the Center for Brain Health’s Brain Performance Institute. “You are not a separate brain walking around on top of a body.” Exercise revs up complex processes inside your mind that can curb depression, help you keep your cool at work and promote longevity.
Inside your head, there are about 86 billion neurons designed to bark orders to the rest of your body — all with the help of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters regulate everything from your mood and sleep cycle, to memory and appetite.
What’s it to you? Studies show that low levels of two of these neurotransmitters in particular, glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), can lead to mood disorders such as depression. The good news: moderate exercise can increase these levels, according to a recent study in The Journal of Neuroscience. The result, whether you suffer from depression or not, is an increased resilience and capacity to respond to mental challenges, a concept known as “mental fitness,” explains study author Richard Maddock, MD, a research professor at UC Davis Medical Center.
This study measured neurotransmitter levels in participants before and after 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, so Maddock says it’s not clear if lower intensity exercise would have the same effect on glutamate and GABA. But one small study suggests that GABA increases after 12 weeks of practicing yoga.
If you are out of shape and out of the habit of exercising, don’t let that put you off. I understand bodies and I am well-trained in physiology. Lets’ start with a gentle walk to discuss where you would like to begin, then perhaps a nice massage for stress relief.
Valentina Boonstra, Valhealing.com