Motion is Lotion
“Motion is lotion for the brain” is a phrase I once heard a doctor say at a neurology seminar and it has
since stuck with me. It reminds me of the care we use when we apply lotion to our skin and the
protective benefits of keeping the tissues soft and supple so new cells can be made and the signs of
aging and roughness can be reduced. The benefits of physical activity on brain health are substantial and
similar to this mental image in many ways. And, the best part is, much like applying lotion to the skin,
you don’t have to be an expert to know how to do it, you just need to be consistent to see the health
benefits. Daily movement such as taking walks, mopping or vacuuming your floors, shoveling snow,
taking the stairs instead of an elevator, and especially performing cardio-type exercises, such as brisk
walking, jump roping, running, and swimming, all count as motions capable of transforming your brain
into a healthier, more well-oiled, or in this example “well-lotioned,” machine. Although it is fairly
common knowledge that physical activity can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and
diabetes, as well as helping to lower blood pressure and weight, most individuals do not realize that by
continuing to move, one can also improve memory, cognition, brain fog, mood, energy levels, anxiety,
and even depression!
Exercise and Brain Health
So, what happens to your brain when you exercise to give you these effects? With aerobic type activity,
the heart rate in the body increases, causing more blood to course throughout not just muscles, tissues,
and various organs of the body, but also to the brain. This flow of blood is important as it is responsible
for carrying not just oxygen, but also vital nutrients necessary for promoting neurogenesis, or the birth
of new brain cells, which is essential for brain function and healing. This circulation also assists in
reducing inflammation that may be in the brain due to exposure to toxins in the environment, an
individual’s diet, or even from a recent trauma such as a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury
(mTBI). Regular exercise can also protect your brain from premature aging and neurodegenerative
diseases. Longitudinal studies done on humans have demonstrated that regular exercise can increase
the size of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, areas which are important for memory and
attention, and also which are both susceptible to decay from conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s
disease. Studies have also shown that every time you move your body, a number of beneficial
substances called neurotransmitters (namely dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and acetylcholine)
responsible for decreasing feelings of anxiety and depression, are released. Lastly, exercise can even
improve the health and function of the synapses between neurons allowing for better transmission and
communication of these important cells so that our bodies can have better coordination and reaction
Positive impact on brain function
At this point, you may be asking yourself just how much exercise is enough to receive all these incredible
health benefits? Research shows that most adults should get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate
intensity physical activity, 5 days a week or 150 minutes weekly, in order to experience a positive impact
on brain function. Keeping in mind that this also includes daily activities such as walking, cleaning, and
opting for the stairs instead of taking the elevator might help to make this goal more attainable. If this
still sounds daunting, working your way up to this by doing even 10-minute increments, is still beneficial.
And typically, when we start exercising and feeling better, we will naturally increase our activity levels without even realizing it. So, ask yourself, when will you start applying the “lotion of motion” to your
brain to begin reaping these amazing health benefits and rewards? Don’t we all owe this to ourselves!?
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