Physical exercise: An effective way to stay mentally sharp
The brain is the most complex, dynamic and amazing organ in our bodies and probably the entire universe. Your perception, imagination, reason and emotions all rise from this three-pound organ; and your quality of life is determined by how well it functions. Good mental and cognitive health are associated with higher levels of happiness, self-esteem and success in life.
Awareness of mental health has expanded significantly which has increased the demand for tools monitor, assess and improve brain function. An effective, yet often overlooked tool which has been shown time and time again to improve mental health is physical exercise.
The list benefits of physical exercise is extensive and includes:
Increased release of growth factors
Boosts in high density lipoprotein, the “good” cholesterol
Improved muscle tone
Increased sexual arousal for women
Decreased probability of erectile dysfunction for men
Slower cell degeneration by reducing telomere degradation (telomeres - protect the end of your chromosome as you age)
Improved skin tone and quality
The benefits of physical exercise go beyond the body. Physical exercise also improves brain function. Research studies looking at the effects of exercise on mental health have found that exercise decreases anxiety and improves mood in individuals with depression. A 2012 study from Duke University studied whether physical exercise could be used as a viable treatment for depression. Their conclusion? “Exercise appears to be an effective treatment for depression, improving depressive symptoms to an extent comparable to that of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy” - Blumenthal et al, 2012. Additional studies have found that physical exercise improves focus, memory and processing speed.
This is because when you exercise, many physiological changes take place in the brain:
Increased blood flow to the brain
Release of BDNF, a hormone important in neuronal growth and regeneration
Increase in the size of your hippocampus, an area involved in learning and memory
Increase in the size of your prefrontal cortex, the area involved in impulse control, executive function and emotional regulation
Release of a host of chemicals including serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins and dopamine resulting in improved mood
Physical Training + Brain Training
When physical training is coupled with a brain training program such as Cognilit, the improvements to an individuals mental health can be significant. Just like physical training, brain training works to improve an individuals mental muscles which include attention, processing speed, focus and memory. Cognilit, a virtual reality-based brain training program was developed using 3D Multiple Object Tracking (3D – MOT) research which has been shown to improve decision-making accuracy, attention and reaction time of athletes during game play. The ability of 3D-MOT to show real world improvements is a core feature which most brain training programs lack. Cognilit utilizes a virtual reality environment, making use of the brain’s full visual field and depth perception thereby maximizing benefits to users.
When developing a brain health plan it is important to not only incorporate regular physical exercise but to supplement it with an effective brain training program such as Cognilit. This not only helps you achieve better outcomes but provides you with a benchmark of your current level of functioning.
How much physical exercise?
10 minutes can go a long way. Consistency is more important than intensity. Engaging in moderate physical activities like walking for 30 minutes a day will provide you with the above benefits. A Harvard article suggests a minimum of 150 minutes a week which is 2.5 hours a week. If you’re not a fan of walking, consider other activities like swimming, climbing, dancing or aerobic classes. Household chores count too.
How much mental exercise?
Like physical exercise, consistency is key. Training in Cognilit for just 5 to 10 minutes a day 4 times a week can significantly improve your brain function. On average users improve at least 50% from baseline after a total of 1 hour of training.
Physical exercise is an effective way to train your body and brain! Add a cognitive training program and you are well on your way to better brain health. Invite a friend join you and get the health benefits of a good relationship too. Remember diet and adequate sleep are also important factors to your brain health. What is good for the heart is also good for the brain. Stay physically healthy to remain mentally sharp!
By Lenica Research Group