Exercise and Our Brain
We know that exercise is good for our bodies, but what effect does it have on our brains? Studies have looked at how well people perform mentally both during and after a workout session and determined that exercise may make us smarter! The connection between exercise and our brain, though difficult to measure, has been shown to be linked together in the overall improvement of our cognitive function.
The first thing noted in the study of exercise and our brain was that during a session of moderate exercise, our reaction time, perception (and interpretation) of visual images, as well as executive control processes was improved. These are the kinds of factors that can affect our ability to plan, schedule, store and manage. This improved cognitive function is seen when a person reaches 20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, and was maintained for another 40 minutes. Beyond an hour, fatigued kicked in which one can start to lose the mental clarity that they actually gained which could even be reversed if exercise continues.
The reason that these benefits take place during a 20 to 60-minute exercise session is due to the increased blood flow to the brain. Nerve cells are stimulated encouraging sensations that send signals to the brain. Moderate intensity is all that is needed, with a strive of 75% of your maximal heart rate. High intensity exercise can likely interfere with mental clarity and task performance as you will have been distracted by the physical exertion.
One interesting and very important factor involved in the connection between exercise and our brain is fluid intake. Dehydration is associated with a decrease in mental performance. Interestingly enough, the brain’s cognitive function lost by dehydration can be quickly reversed once fluids are consumed, bringing the body back to its pre-exercise hydration level. Hyper-hydration (extra fluid beyond what was lost) also showed to have some mental performance benefits. (Mindful hyper-hydration is key as over hydration can also present a dangerous factor).
For more on how exercise can make us smarter, check out the article original article here.