Increase cardio activity to have a greater impact on your brain health than you may have thought. With aerobic activity, you will improve not only your heart function but your thought process too!
It has been said that the brain cells you were born with, were all you were going to have. No more and no less.
I am sure you remember the “This is your brain… (egg) and this is your brain on drugs… (egg cracked and cooking in a hot frying pan) commercial. Teaching you that drugs are bad (which they still are) and that they will kill your brain cells. Most of that is very true – so don’t do drugs!
There have been recent studies that show an overwhelming positive effect of an increase in cardio and aerobics on the brain. Especially the part it plays in your cognitive and emotional health. Aerobics can benefit your brain health!
Did you read this and groan? I am a person who just does not like cardio at all. There are some cardio killers out there for sure – but me… I am not one of them. You would be lucky to find me in cardio juvie.
But let me show you what researchers have found and I will let you make your own decision – ok?
Increase in Cardio and Brain Activity
Recently my mom and I had a conversation about her family’s mental health. Brain diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s runs in our family. Something that I was not aware of or I blocked it out. It is a topic that has peaked my interest in the present, as I have had some problems remembering things. Now, I will say that being a mom has drained some of my cognitive thinking… but I feel that it is no excuse sometimes.
So enough about me and why this is interesting to me. More about the science behind your brain and cardio. More specifically, how aerobics benefit your brain health, cognitive thinking and emotions.
Increase in Cardio and Cognitive Thinking
Your cognitive abilities help you make plans, think outside the box, and develop strategies on how things should be done. When stressed or overwhelmed, these abilities haze over in a fog.
According to the study I read “stress releases catecholamines and corticosteroids” – aka a “chemical cascade”. This is what clouds your thinking and causes confusion.
Think fight or flight… Stress releases the fight or flight chemicals in your brain. Those chemical reactions in the brain would get used if there was an actual fight or reason to run. However, when there is nothing to consume that energy it festers inside your body creating cortisol. And cortisol can hold on to stubborn fat. You mean there is not a pack of wolves chasing you all day?
Another example that comes to mind is kids that are hyperactive, have ADHD or just seem rambunctious. The abundance of chemical reactions going on in their brains – cause them to act out burning some of that energy. Put that child in an activity such as any martial arts class, they will expel much of that energy. They just need a chance to use that energy more often than other children.
BDNF. No this isn’t referencing a HS chant, it means Brain Derived Neuropathic Factor. These support growth survival and development of neurons in the brain (more about this referenced in the study below). Aerobic activity (70% of your max HR activity) stimulates BDNF. Increased BDNF will increase your mood (the good mood – not the stressed mood). It can help clear your brain fog and release endorphins to, again, help you feel good!
Cardio – Not Just for Your Heart
When you are thinking about cardio and dreading it, like I do, think about it as bettering your health. Not just from a cardiovascular health point of view but a cognitive brain function standpoint.
Regular exercise is best for the brain. Have a rough day at home with the kids, or at the office and are feeling especially stressed? 20 min of aerobics will benefit your mental health, and relieve some of that stress. As your intensity in your aerobic activity increases, so will your BDNF. In other words, your brain health.
This will look different for everyone. Your 70% might be going on a brisk walk for 20 min and getting your heart rate up. It may take 20 min of higher intensity cardio training. Try doing one min of work and one min of rest for a total of 20 min.
While brain games on your phone may help with short term memory aerobic exercise is going to help more, long term.
It is not shown that cardio activity eliminates dementia or Alzheimer’s all together, but it does show to delay them. It increases the function and reliability of nerve cells in your brain helping your memory and ability to keep moving. I want to be around for my family as long as possible.
Information in this article was based on the research article found in:
The American Fitness Magazine – Winter 2018 edition pages 25 – 34.
If you need help to increase cardio activity in your daily life, fill out the information below and let me help you! I am also currently taking online coaching clients!