We often tend to focus on what effect exercise has on our fitness and aesthetics. But how often do we consider what effect exercise has on our brain? Not very often. In my experience to focus on aesthetics when exercising won’t keep you running long term. It’s often not a strong enough reason to keep going when we have no motivation. It’s not a bad start though and often there are deeper reasons why someone wants to focus on aesthetics but ideally we want to recognise the deeper reason. Also aesthetics will come regardless if you focus on it or not. As long as you stay consistent with healthy habits and exercise.
Most of us have heard that exercise improves our focus and helps with stress management. However I have never as of yet come across a client that has that as their main focus. Exercise or physical activity boost serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which have direct effect on attention, focus and stress. The HelpGuide has a good article on The Mental health benefits of exercise. Personally I get nothing done unless I have done some sort of physical activity. How this affects you I can imagine is also quite individual.
This one is a big one in my opinion. As we get older we tend to lose our memory to various degrees, even without dementia. Our memory centre, the hippocampus, reduces in size from age 35+ with about 1-2% a year. Studies show that aerobic exercise can have a positive effect on this. You can have a look at the study at PNAS website on Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory.
In the study one group did aerobic exercise the other did stretching and strengthening exercises. The aerobic exercise group increased their hippocampus volume by 2% in that year. The resistance training and stretching group had a decrease in hippocampus volume of 1-4% in that year.
What type of aerobic exercise did they do? Well at that HR they would be doing a brisk walk. So you can exhale, in order to help your memory you won’t have to run 5km everyday unless you want to. 3 walks for 40 min at a brisk pace will go a long way.
Well, a mix of aerobic and strength is most likely the best balance. Even though aerobic was shown to be better for memory strength based exercise has many other highly important benefits on the body which should not be overlooked.
Hope this was insightful.
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London-based female personal trainer for individuals who are committed to improving their health through movement.