Exercise Doesn’t Just Help Your Body
Exercise is healthy, we know that, but did you realise how it impacts your brain too?
What many women notice at menopause is an increase in brain fog and ability to focus and pay attention.
This can be due to the changing hormones at this time, and certainly progesterone is known to help with brain fog, but there’s also something you may not have considered.
How does exercise help with brain fog?
Exercise can actually help as the ability to focus does seem to go up after you do some intense exercise but sadly doesn’t change that much after “steady state” exercise like a leisurely jog or bicycle ride.
Aerobic exercise like walking, jogging, or gardening may help your brain’s hippocampus — the part that’s linked to memory and learning — grow. It also might slow the shrinking of your hippocampus that can lead to memory loss as you get older.
Some studies suggest the regrowth is stronger if you like the activity you’re doing, so find something you enjoy and focus on regularly doing that.
Aerobic exercise eases symptoms of depression and anxiety so well, and that is something that is already well known and may even be recommended by your doctor.
It could be because exercise slows the damage and breakdown of brain cells. However, this is not a quick fix as it can take many months to get the full benefit, so make a habit of being active. That is also why it is particularly important that you choose an exercise that you like and enjoy, as in you are much more likely to stick with it.
Exercise can make your brain more flexible
Neuroplasticity is the ability of your brain to change when you learn and experience new things. Younger brains are generally better than older ones at doing this, but even those of the same age can have very different capacities.
Scientists believe both aerobic exercise and weight training seem to help make our brains more flexible.
Exercise may help you avoid dementia
People who don’t exercise much are more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. That’s in part because exercise helps prevent many of the things that are linked to dementia, like:
– High blood pressure
But exercise has a direct effect as well. Scientists can actually see you can have more white and gray brain matter and less diseased tissue.
These are all signs of better brain health.
Exercise helps blood flow
Aerobic exercise helps blood get to your brain. It’s partially because exercise makes your heart and blood vessels stronger, from the larger vessels that carry blood up to your head to the tiny microvessels in your brain.
Strong blood vessels — and the better blood flow they create — appear to help stop the buildup of plaques linked to dementia.
Scientists also believe strong blood flow helps nourish the brain in a way that slows mental decline and they continue to try to figure out exactly how this works.
Exercise helps your brain cells connect better
Research suggests exercise improves your ability to organize and interpret information, and act in a way that makes sense — something called “executive function.”
Just one session of exercise can start the process. Over the long term, exercise seems to change structure of white matter in your brain in a way that helps brain cells connect.
Exercise helps you sleep
We know exercise can help you keep an even mood, wind down at bedtime, and establish a healthy sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).
The exact brain effects aren’t always clear, but people who exercise more tend to get more “slow wave” sleep — the kind of deep sleep that helps revitalize your brain and body.
Exercise – how much do I need?
Standard recommendations call for 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week.
That’s a great place to start, but always check with your doctor if you have not exercised before, and remember a small amount of regular exercise is better than a bigger amount done infrequently.
What is important is to find an exercise that you enjoy and will stick to, as it is the frequency that makes the difference as there are so many benefits for your overall health, weight and stress reduction.
Time to be a little creative if you haven’t exercised before so why not try something new such as hot yoga, Zumba or why not take up cycling again?
As well as exercise you need your hormones in balance too and progesterone definitely can help with brain fog at menopause.
Don’t forget that your diet too will have an impact, and this article gives you more help with things that might not be helping.