Do you know engaging in physical activity can delay degenerating pathologies and brain aging? Remaining physically fit has a profound influence on your brain, including protection against brain disorders and preservation of brain health.
How Does Physical Fitness Impact Brain Functioning?
How your brain functions is affected by how active you are physically. Physical fitness is associated with the following benefits:
- It improves blood circulation in the brain
- It lowers the levels of stress hormones
- It reduces inflammation
- It enhances the integrity of white matter
- It increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex (1)
What Does The Research Say?
Here’s how physical fitness impacts brain functioning based on scientific evidence:
You start losing your memory due to the loss of brain volume as you age. Studies suggest that physical activity prevents the loss of brain volume and cognitive function. It has also been found that exercise prevents different brain regions from shrinking, which may result in the loss of memory (2).
- Blood Vessels:
Your brain receives 15% entire supply of blood from the body to perform essential functions. A constant supply of blood keeps neurons active, and this can be achieved by exercising continuously. Increased growth of blood vessels and the development of new neurons has been associated with regular exercise (3).
Your brain contains some immune cells so that they can send signals to the brain in case of any threats from microbes. These immune cells are called microglia. As you age, low-level inflammation in your brain and declined immune function results in neurodegenerative disorders. Studies have found that exercise can reprogram the microglia and makes them more energy efficient (4).
Physical Fitness And Serotonin:
Exercises like swimming, biking, running, and cardio workouts can increase serotonin levels. High serotonin levels are important for improving your brain function, mood, and behavior. Increased serotonin levels have also been linked to improved sleep cycle, appetite, and depression (5).
Runner’s High: How Does It Work?
If you’re a runner or exercise heavily, your heart starts pumping more oxygenated blood, and you experience heavy breathing. Your body starts going through a transition as a result of the release of endorphins from your brain, and you start feeling a short-lasting euphoric state. This is called Runner’s high.
You experience Runner’s high when your brain releases endorphins that do not let you experience any muscle pain (6).
- Liegro CMD, Schiera G, Proia P, Liegro ID. Physical Activity and Brain Health. Genes [Internet]. 2019 Sep [cited 2021 Jul 20];10(9). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770965/
- Aerobic Exercise Training Increases Brain Volume in Aging Humans | The Journals of Gerontology: Series A | Oxford Academic [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jul 20]. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/61/11/1166/630432
- Physical exercise leads to rapid adaptations in hippocampal vasculature: temporal dynamics and relationship to cell proliferation and neurogenesis – PubMed [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jul 20]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19212941/
- Exercise-induced reprogramming of age-related metabolic changes in microglia is accompanied by a reduction in senescent cells – PubMed [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jul 20]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31978523/
- Exercise and Brain Neurotransmission | SpringerLink [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jul 20]. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-199520030-00004
- Fuss J, Gass P. Endocannabinoids and voluntary activity in mice: Runner’s high and long-term consequences in emotional behaviors. Exp Neurol. 2010 Jul 1;224(1):103–5.