New studies have shed light on how exercise affects your brain. Scientists are now able to perform EEGs and get consistent results while subjects are exercising, much better than previously. EEG’s measure brain waves. Therefore scientists are able to better see what is happening in the brain during exercise. Lets see what they found.
Your brain becomes more active during exercise. Low frequency brain waves are more active during automatic activities like sleeping or tying your shoes. Higher frequency waves are more active during activities requiring memory or attention like performing math. Scientists have found that exercise boosts high frequency brain waves. This makes sense if you have ever ran or played tennis. You have to pay attention!
In addition, exercise causes the whole brain to become more alert, especially the visual part of the brain.
The brain will also use more glucose for energy when you start exercising. Scientists have discovered the brain is using this energy to make more neurotransmitters. It appears the brain is preparing and stocking up on neurotransmitters when exercising. This may be a reason exercise helps depression.
Exercise also starts the process of making growth factors in the brain. These growth factors nourish new neurons and help existing cells survive. It increases neurogenesis, making new cells, which helps with increase memory. Exercise also increases the volume of the areas of the brain involved in balance and coordination. That certainly makes sense.
So exercise is not a cure all. It won’t increase your IQ. But the benefits of exercise are many and well worth the effort. Other effects not brain related include having more energy, sleeping better, making better food choices and more. So get off your butt and get going! You do not have to train for the Olympics, just get moving!