Exercise is Food for your Brain.
Most of us only associate exercise with being beneficial for our cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health. As it turns out, recent research (including that done by the University of Georgia, UCLA, and the University of British Columbia) shows that the brain also benefits when we get our bodies moving.
Your brain is just like the muscles of your body in that if you don’t use it, you lose it! …well, some of it.
Pilates works wonders for your body and your brain. Joseph Pilates’ six principles: centring; concentration; control; precision; breath; and flow, keep your brain active while you’re doing Pilates.
The Pilates method challenges the brain and body connection and places significant emphasis on visual imagery and concentration. So performing Pilates exercises can be quite different from a regular gym workout, which typically involves the repetition of less complex movements, which use fewer muscle groups.
Exercise can benefit your brain on a behavioural and molecular level. Even exercising for just 20 minutes can improve your brain’s memory and processing functions.
How does exercise feed the brain?
- It increases the heart rate, pumping more oxygen to the brain and growing more blood vessels to the brain.
- It aids the body’s release of hormones, which nourish the growth of brain cells.
- It reduces inflammation. Prolonged inflammation has been linked to many brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.
- It increases growth factors in the brain, which makes it easier for your brain to grow new connections between the neurons and promotes the survival of new brain cells.
- It provides antidepressant-like effects by reducing stress hormones.
- A study from Stockholm showed that exercise stimulates more cell growth in the hippocampus – the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Choosing the right physical exercise.
Aerobic exercise is good for your body and brain. It acts as a “first aid kit” on damaged brain cells.
Aim to exercise in the morning to jump-start your brain and release the hormones to reduce stress. This should help you cope with stress for the rest of the day. It will also stimulate the hippocampus, which will help you remember information as you commence the work day.
Try a type of exercise that incorporates coordination along with cardiovascular exercises, such as Pilates or dance. These types of exercise spike your heart rate and also keep your mind focused on constantly moving your body.
“A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence are worth hours of doing sloppy callisthenics or forced contortion.”
– Joseph Pilates
How much exercise should you feed your brain?
120 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week has been shown to produce the benefits listed above. Standard recommendations are 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.
If you’re planning to increase the amount or intensity of exercise you’re doing, it’s important to do this gradually over a few weeks. It may be beneficial to talk to your Pilates instructor, physiotherapist, doctor or another trained professional about how you should do this.
Ways to boost your brain:
- Start exercising now!
- Join a class where you are committed to showing up 1-2 times per week (to keep you accountable and develop a routine).
- Track your progress, by participating in a program such as The Body Refinery Wellness Challenge.
- Have a trained professional check that you are performing exercises that are safe, challenging for your brain, and the right level of intensity.
At The Body Refinery Online we look at exercise as food for the body. Pilates is an amazing way to challenge your brain and your body at the same time. Pilates requires you to be attentive to the movements you are performing. The Body Refinery Online’s Pilates programs ensure you are performing interesting and varying movements that will keep your brain active in the coordination of your limbs – stimulating all those brain-cell-growing chemicals. Instead of hopping on a treadmill or performing weights reps, visit www.thebodyrefineryonline.com to see how Pilates will challenge your body and feed your brain.