We all know about the benefits of exercise on our bodies. It keeps our muscles strong, heart pumping, joints supple and stops us from piling on those extra pounds. A recent study has got me thinking though (steady on Tom! I hear you say). How does exercise affect our brains? The study in question found that aerobic exercise improved brain function and health as the participants got older. Brain health decreases with age with the average brain shrinking by 5% every decade after 40. Aerobic exercise was found to slow down this deterioration by acting as a maintenance program for the brain. Great, another reason to get down to Barons gym! But what other brainy benefits can we expect?
Well as you know exercise increases the heart rate which pumps more oxygen to the brain. The brain soaks up 20% of all your oxygen so keeping it well stocked makes sure your brain is functioning in a tip-top state. It is well known that exercise results in an antidepressant-like effect. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “runners high”. A number of different feel-good chemicals are released during or after exercise giving us that post-workout buzz.
Exercise can also help reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. When we eat, our body turns most of our food into glucose. This is our bodies main fuel source and needs to be accompanied by insulin for the glucose to enter our cells. Sometimes our cells become resistant to insulin meaning the body has to produce more of it. This can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes. An increase in glucose in the brain affects memory and cognitive function. Regular exercise increases your insulin sensitivity which makes your blood sugar return to normal quickly after eating.
So a Roman poet Juvenal said “mens sana in corpore sano”. Ooo, I think my grey cells are getting stronger already!