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Make time for exercise...it's good for your brain!

Orange Icon  Make time for exercise...it's good for your brain!

Orange Icon  Make time for exercise...it's good for your brain!

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Almost everyone I know wishes getting up the motivation to stick to an exercise program was easier. People are busy. There's work, errands, grocery shopping, social engagements,.... And that list triples if you have kids! With so much to do, we often end up sending "exercise" to the bottom of our to-do lists. After all, the exercise program DVDs are in your TV room, the sidewalk will always be there to walk on, and the gym is open 24 hours. I can work out anytime! I have things that need doing right now!

If people actually understood that exercise doesn't just shave inches off your measurements or make up for that dessert you ate at dinner last night, they'd be much more likely to stick to an exercise regimen.

And if they knew that making an exercise program a part of their routine would make them more efficient at all the other tasks on their to-do lists, it would be priority number one.

Scientists have been studying the brain to determine how it is affected by exercise for decades. Recently, they've made serious strides that strongly suggest that our brains may benefit from exercise even more than our waistlines.

When you're dreading your next workout session, or are tempted to skip a workout in favor of more pressing matters, consider the following:

  1. Exercise programs work out your brain too. Your brain never sleeps. It's always awake, always functioning. When you're tapping your fingers because you're bored, your brain is telling your hand to do that. Physical activity - and the coordination it demands - actually gives your brain a workout too. There's evidence that just 30 minutes of jogging may sharpen thinking and make your brain more fatigue resistant. Plus, more complicated exercises may help spur the growth of new brain cells. So if you needed a reason to try dance aerobics or Zumba, you've got it!

  2. Exercise spurs brain growth. Exercise spurs mitochondrial growth in your muscles, which helps improve endurance and is linked to reduced risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Mitochondrial deficits in your brain may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, and researchers believe that exercise has the same mitochondria-creating effect in your brain as it does on muscles. Additionally, researchers believe that a protein in the brain that increases with exercise, BDNF, improves cognitive function and memory.

  3. Exercise boosts mood and may alleviate depression. Sweat sessions release dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, feel good hormones that help you look on the bright side, even when you're stressed. Research also indicates that 30 minutes of vigorous exercise is about as effective at managing depression as many drugs. (Though please speak with your doctor before tossing your antidepressants.) There is also evidence that exercise programs reduce the aging effect stress has on our bodies.