7 Ways That Exercise Can Benefit Your Brain and Body
We all know that exercise is good for our health, but do you know exactly how it positively impacts the body and brain? Here are seven benefits of regular exercise which may just surprise you.
1. Fat Cells Shrink
Exercise is obviously important for losing weight, because the process of burning more calories than you consume leads to weight loss. However, regular high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is specifically known to promote fat burning, so that your body is forced to use fat for fuel rather than other sources of energy. So, although it’s helpful to do gentle exercise such as walking or cycling, frequent, short bursts of intense exercise are best for shrinking away fat.
2. Slower Aging
Regular exercise can improve flexibility of joints, muscles and ligaments to help you stay feeling young, but it can help to reduce the rate of physical aging, too. This is because it stimulates changes in mitochondrial activity, which increases cellular energy function and causes new mitochondria to form. As we age, mitochondrial mass declines, so by boosting mitochondria production via exercise, you can slow down the aging process and look younger than your years.
3. Healthier Skin
There are a couple of ways in which your skin can improve with regular exercise. Firstly, by increasing your heart rate and getting the body warm, you increase blood flow to the skin, which means that more oxygen and nutrients are able to reach skin cells. This boosts skin health to leave it looking brighter, and it also helps to heal wounds faster. Secondly, if you do resistance exercise such as lunges and push-ups in order to boost your muscle mass, you can make skin look more toned and lifted, too.
4. Better Brain Health
In a study of adults between the ages of 60 and 80 of which none did formal exercise, it was found that those who were most physically active had better oxygenation in the brain and improved patterns of brain activity. The active participants reported that their activity including things like gardening, walking, or just moving around as much as they could. Compared to the sedentary participants, the active people showed better cognitive function, which proves that even very gentle activity can boost brain health. It is thought that this is because exercise helps to produce a protein called FNDC5 which triggers BDNF production, and BDNF helps to preserve existing brain cells and activate brain stem cells to help the brain grow.
5. Improved Mood
A Princeton University study found that exercise creates new neurons which release the GABA neurotransmitter, which minimizes neurons from excessively firing in order to induce a natural feeling of calm. It is also known that anandamide levels increase with exercise, which is thought to produce chemicals in the brain which temporarily block pain and depressive feelings. To put it simply, exercise can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and generally lift the mood, so whenever you’re feeling down or tense, a quick exercise session is often the best medicine.
6. Faster Recovery from Chronic Disease
When it comes to chronic illnesses such as cancer, stroke, osteoarthritis and depression, exercise can help to reduce symptoms and lead to faster recovery. Increasing the heart rate and blood flow throughout the body can help to stimulate healing, plus it can boost mood and morale, which can help people to feel more motivated to overcome their illness.
7. Fitness Improves in Just Minutes
A study into HIIT found that it took as little as 12 minutes of intense exercise every week to boost fitness levels in inactive, overweight men. So you could do just a 12-minute intense workout each week, or four minutes of intense exercise three times each week, and quickly see a significant improvement in your fitness levels.