When we think of medicine, most people think of pharmaceuticals and not of exercise for brain health. Many people rely on pharmaceuticals daily, for both physical and brain health. When we have a headache, we run to the nearest pharmacy and pick up an over the counter solution. Diagnoses such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), schizophrenia, dementia and anxiety are often treated with medications. Even depression is considered manageable with the right prescription drug cocktail.
But perhaps we are all thinking of medicine the wrong way. What if medicine is much more than the synthetic compounds we consume in hopes of fixing us? What if your doctor told you that medicine, real medicine, exists and is much more than a prescription drug? Perhaps it does.
Though often forgotten, exercise is medicine. Physical exercise for brain development is one of the most underestimated, unappreciated medicinal experiences we could ever hope for. Not only does physical activity help to treat some of the ailments we may suffer from, but it prevents illnesses as well. With studies of the effects of exercise on overall health, but specifically cognitive health, on the rise, it is no surprise that exercise just may be a prescription coming to you.
Exercise for Brain Health – Top 4 Reasons to Exercise
- Exercise fights anxiety and depression. One in every ten Americans take an anti-depressant drug daily, according to the federal government’s health statisticians. Think about that for a minute, you meet someone every day who relies on an anti-depressant to maintain mental comfort. But is there another way? Exercise for brain health has been consistently scientifically proven to enhance our well-being and state of mind for the last few decades. In recent studies, performed by the Mayo Clinic, routine physical activity has been shown to release cannabis like endorphins that naturally make us feel good. Have you ever gone for a run on the treadmill and felt a sense of euphoria afterwards? Well, that would be all those endogenous cannabinoids being released in that happy, happy brain of yours. So, instead of starting a prescription for anxiety, some doctors may recommend that we start a physical training routine instead.
- Exercise keeps our brains young. If you are looking for scientific evidence on the benefits of exercise for vitality and life expectancy, look no further. Medical doctors and physical therapists everywhere are recommending physical activity for most of their patients. “We must not underestimate how important physical activity is for health – even modest amounts can add years to our life,” says I-Min Lee, M.D. and professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The National Health Institute performed a study involving 650,000 Americans, the data confirmed that those who spent 5 hours a week performing moderate activity saw a 4.2-year lifespan increase. The American Medical Association (AMA) has recently released studies that prove physical activity may keep our brains more vigorous and youthful, longer.
- Exercise lowers pain identification in our brains. All of us have experienced some form of physical pain. Unfortunately, pain is a part of life. No matter what level of pain we are exposed to, we experience pain in one way—in our brains. There is evidence that routine physical activity can lower our pain threshold significantly. A study performed on 24 individuals, by researchers at the University of New South Wales, suggested greatly that exercise training greatly increased individual pain tolerance. In the beginning of the study, all 24 individuals had their pain thresholds tested. After, half the group agreed to routinely exercise for 6 weeks while the other half of the group continued upon their normal lives. The entire group returned and every individual had their pain threshold retested. The results were clear, those who participated in physical activity had a significant increase in their pain tolerance. Though the “how” is not one hundred percent known, some of the researchers suggested it was because those who participated in the exercise training gained more mental strength and felt less threatened by the pain.
- Exercise enhances our immune system. When we are sick with the flu or a stomach bug, the first thing the doctor recommends is that we REST. Stay home, sleep and avoid physical activity. But what if there was something we could be doing to remain in tip-top health? Exercise! It has been highly recognized that routine physical activity can keep our bodies defense system strong, helping us avoid getting sick in the first place. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that exercise strengthens our immune system and lowers our stress hormones. When we exercise, our white blood cells circulate through our bodies faster, detecting any unwanted illnesses sooner. And physical activity also slows down the release of stress hormones, keeping our bodies healthier.
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence showing that regular exercise is beneficial for your both mental and physical well-being.
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