The Benefits of Exercise on the Brain and Body: From Improved Memory to Lower Risk of Diseases

Regular physical activity, including running, exercising and even walking, can not only help us relax but also improve our concentration, memory, and creativity. Ewa Moroch, the author of “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” states that running provides a form of relaxation, meditation, and reset that allows us to return to our desk jobs with new enthusiasm.

Physical activity improves blood circulation throughout the body and oxygenates tissues. Our brain, which makes up only 2% of our body mass but uses 20% of the oxygen and a quarter of the glucose, benefits the most from the oxygenation.

Research from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies shows that physical exercise not only supports the work of neurons but also helps create new brain cells, even in advanced age. People who are more physically fit have larger hippocampus, which is an element of the limbic system mainly responsible for memory, resulting in better memory retention.

Even a short burst of physical activity can improve memory, as demonstrated in an experiment by Eadaoin Griffin from the University of Dublin. Participants were shown pictures with the faces and names of strangers. Half of them pedaled on a training bike with increasing speed until exhaustion, while the other half sat quietly for 30 minutes. Both groups were then asked to recall the names they had seen at the beginning of the study. Those who had exercised physically noticed an improvement in their memory compared to their baseline, and their concentration of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein responsible for the survival and growth of neurons, increased.

Physical activity also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by an average of 31% and the risk of death by 32%, according to a study by researchers from University College in London who analyzed 18 different scientific studies conducted worldwide between 1970 and 2007, covering 460,000 people. Other studies by researchers from the University of East Anglia show that regular walking also reduces the risk of developing arthritis, Parkinson’s, and dementia.

Additionally, the endorphins released during exercise improve our mood and, in the long term, reduce the risk of depression. To conclude, physical activity has numerous benefits that go beyond just physical fitness and can help us lead a healthier and happier life.