From neurons to hormones: Why your body needs a workout.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.
Final part of this six part series, which has showcased 19 reasons why you should take up exercise. Even if it is something you have delayed, put on the back burner you should fire it up again now. From mind, the main reason people give up on their exercise regime is motivation. This is where KERRIE FITNESS and small group training comes into play. Leave the motivation to Kerrie, you only need to show up to reap all the benefits that have been discussed over the duration of this series.
You may feel like taking time off work to go to the gym is a luxury you can’t afford, but by improving your overall health, exercise can help you ward off both acute and chronic illness. You’ll get fewer colds, be less prone to the flu, and avoid the accidents or surgical interventions that can force you to take prolonged absences. In a tough economy, you need every edge you can get, and by showing up for work every day, you’ll maintain that edge over your absentee-prone non-exercising co-workers.
BOOSTS MEMORY. The effects of exercise on many of your bodily systems ultimately pays off in improving your cognitive functioning. There are now volumes of studies on humans as well as lab animals showing that regular physical exercise helps your neurons stay in shape particularly in the memory areas of your brain. You don’t even have to exert yourself that much to experience this memory boost. Moderate walking can help your brain’s memory center, the hippocampus, maintain its health and vitality. Memory also benefits from a general lowering of cortisol, the stress hormone, associated with the improved mood and anxiety levels you experience from your regular workouts.
BUILDS INTELLIGENCE. Along with memory, your intellectual skills benefit from regular physical activity. It also helps if you can build in some mental activity as well. As oxygen flows more freely to your brain, not only does your hippocampus benefit but so does the part of your brain involved in planning and reasoning (the prefrontal cortex). Mental activity, particularly involvement in exercises that require you to respond quickly, also boosts your intelligence and even your ability to carry out activities of daily living.
LOWERS DEMENTIA RISK. Exercise lowers your chances for developing dementia based on cardiovascular illness because you’re improving the flow of blood throughout your body, including your brain. Because dementia due to cardiovascular disease is hard to distinguish from other forms of dementia, it’s hard to say that exercise could actually slow or prevent the neuron death responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. However, by preserving the neurons in your brain, exercise can give you an added advantage should you develop this otherwise untreatable disease. It’s even possible that exercise can help slow or prevent Alzheimer’s disease by improving your glucose and fat metabolism because some of the brain alterations found in Alzheimer’s disease may be due to abnormalities in these processes. For example, researchers have found recently that lowering a person’s risk for diabetes can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s possible that lack of a healthy lifestyle may have led the illness to develop in many older adult sufferers today. To the extent that middle-agers are now more likely to exercise than were their parents, we may actually see fewer people developing dementia in the coming years.
I hope that before you’ve made it through all 19 of these reasons, you’ve put on your sneakers and decided to go to your local fitness studio to find out about classes. No matter what your age, exercise can help you achieve greater physical and mental fulfillment. See if you can add to this list of 19 reasons by finding your own personal formula for exercise success!
Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.