The Physical Benefits of Exercise in Maintaining Your Nervous System and Mental Function

The brain and body are undividable parts of the human organism, and both benefits from exercise. Health is the vital principle of bliss. Regular work out fights hopelessness and dissipates anxiety, and improves the quality of sleep.  The repetitive routine of activities, such as walking, jogging, and swimming functions as muscular meditation, share some of the benefits of psychological meditation.

Although the data are less complete, sexual function also appears to benefit. The result is a better mood, improved performance at work and at home, and increased self-esteem. Scientists are still working to understand how exercise improves mental function. Part of the benefit may be purely psychological, the natural result of feeling more energetic and looking better. Hormones may also play a role, since exercise reduces stress hormones and boosts the production and release of endorphins,, the body's own pain-reducing hormones that have been linked to the so-called runner's high. And a small study suggests that exercise may also help nerves carry their messages to and from the brain faster. Research is also uncovering an additional neurological benefit of regular exercise: a reduced risk of cognitive decline (dementia), particularly in old age.

Exercise promotes emotional and psychological well-being by fighting depression, dissipating anxiety, and improving sleep. That should help mental function—and there is more. Animal studies show that exercise can increase blood flow to the brain and enhance communication between nerve cells by promoting new connections (synapses) between brain cells. A study of mice even found that running increased the production and survival of new nerve cells in the aging rodents' brains. More than forty thousand elderly Americans, Canadians, and Europeans have all linked regular physical activity with a reduced risk of cognitive decline in the "golden years." As compared with the least active people, those who got the most exercise were 15 to 50 percent less likely to suffer from mental impairment. In one study, for every mile a woman walked each day, her risk of cognitive decline dropped by 13 percent. In a study from Cleveland, regular exercise between the ages of twenty and sixty was linked to a nearly fourfold reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in old age. Researchers in Baltimore also reported that people who carry a gene that increases risk for Alzheimer's disease enjoy the most protection from exercise. So in case you've forgotten, the moral is simple: for your mind as well as your body, remember to exercise regularly. It's another case of new research confirming old insights; in this case the strength of mind is exercise, not rest.
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