Posted on 06/09/2008
Q I’ve enjoyed your brain series, Dr Edelberg. Can you tell me if it’s true that physical exercise helps the brain work better?
A Absolutely. Researchers have confirmed what you probably knew all along–that your mental capacity improves when you exercise regularly. And this applies to people of all ages.
Consider some of the benefits of exercise: improved sense of well-being, better circulation, cardiac fitness and lower blood pressure, reduced diabetes risk, increased neurotransmitter manufacture (better and more brain connections), improvement of emotional symptoms like depression and anxiety, and reduced risk of stroke.
Conversely, having any of the medical conditions above definitely increases your risk of impaired brain function.
Take diabetes as an example. Poorly controlled diabetes will damage the small blood vessels throughout your body, including those in your brain. This, in turn, increases your risk for tiny strokes and brain damage. At first, you don’t notice anything, but, unchecked, the tiny strokes cause more and more damage and in later stages may be quite indistinguishable from Alzheimer’s.
If that’s not enough, the wide swings of blood sugar that are common with uncontrolled diabetes cause frequent periods of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which are especially damaging to delicate brain cells.
Overall, exercise produces better brain function, memory, focus, and concentration.
Exercise good for your brain? You bet!