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Published On: Thu, Mar 26th, 2020

Workouts for Brain and Heart Health From the Makers of Prevagen

Do you love taking your dog for long walks through the forest or on the beach? Or perhaps you enjoy working up a sweat on the court at your local tennis club. Either way, it’s important to know that these activities aren’t just fun; they’re actually good for you. Read on to find out how exercise can benefit your brain and heart health.  

Disclosure: This article was sponsored by Quincy Bioscience, the makers of Prevagen.

photo/ Gerd Altmann

Benefits of Exercise for Your Brain 

Although the link between exercise and brain health has long been touted by medical experts, it wasn’t until recently that the government finally promoted the importance of brain health for our overall health. In its 2018 edition of the “Physical Activity Guidelines,” it explains how exercise positively impacts sleep, cognition, , mood, and quality of life. 

According to Psychology Today, exercise improves brain health in several ways. Cardio (aerobic exercise) increases the flow of blood to your brain while simultaneously raising your heart rate. When your heart beats faster, you also start to breath faster and harder. As a result, more oxygen is pumped into your bloodstream and delivered to your brain. When your blood delivers more oxygen to your brain, it triggers the production of neurons in a process called neurogenesis in the areas of your brain that control thinking and memory. This eventually results in an increase in brain volume. 

Exercise also promotes the production of certain proteins that help with neuron function and survival; these are called neurotrophins. In the long run, a greater number of neurotrophins leads to enhanced brain plasticity and, consequently, improved learning and memory. Moreover, exercise causes your brain to produce specific neurotransmitters  norepinephrine and serotonin. These two neurotransmitters are important for regulating mood and aid the brain in processing information. Additionally, they help reduce anxiety and stress.

Harvard Health Publishing reports that when people adhere to a 6- or 12-month exercise program of moderate intensity, their brains show increased volume in select brain regions. In other words, exercise isn’t merely a preventative measure; it can proactively help improve cognition and brain function.

Benefits of Exercise for Your Heart

Your brain isn’t the only organ in your body that can benefit from exercise; your heart can, as well. As Johns Hopkins Medicine advises, exercise offers several distinct benefits for heart health:

 

  • A combination of strength training and aerobic exercise helps improve the ability of your muscles to extract oxygen from your blood. This means that the heart doesn’t need to work as hard to pump more blood to your muscles.

 

  • High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Fortunately, when you engage in regular aerobic exercise, your heart rate slows down and your blood pressure drops both when you’re exercising and when you’re at rest. 

 

  • When you’re overweight, it puts strain on your heart, which places you at risk for stroke and heart disease. But when you exercise, you can lose weight and keep that weight off, which then helps improve heart health. 

 

  • The hormones that your body releases when you experience stress also put an extra strain on your heart. Exercise releases endorphins, which reduce stress and allow you to relax.

 

  • Exercise can help slow or stop the development of diabetes by more than 50 percent by teaching the muscles how to process glycogen more efficiently.

 

  • Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease because it impacts the functioning and structure of blood vessels. Interestingly, smokers who start exercising often quit, which boosts their heart health.

 

  • inflammation can adversely impact heart health and functioning. Because exercise reduces chronic inflammation, it helps protect the heart and minimizes the risk of coronary disease. 

 

  • Lastly, exercise can strengthen your heart muscle. Because your heart is responsible for pumping blood with fresh oxygen to the rest of your body, this is a very important benefit of regular exercise.

Exercises for Brain and Heart Health

Now that you know that regular exercise is good for both your brain and your heart, how do you know which type of exercise to do? Prevagen, the manufacturer of an over-the-counter dietary supplement that has been clinically proven to diminish mild age-related memory loss,* also offers reliable advice regarding other ways to help support your overall health. In a recent blog post, the company discussed several types of exercise that offer benefits for brain and heart health:

  • Cardiovascular exercise: This is any type of exercise that raises your heart rate, such as jogging, running, swimming, or cycling. Other examples include elliptical trainer workouts and rowing. All of these activities while being fun and making you feel good due to the release of endorphins help decrease your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. They also stimulate blood flow to the brain, which in turn helps improve cognition.
  • Circuit workouts: It’s easy and affordable to purchase a gym membership, and once you have one, you can do circuit workouts. This involves performing short bursts of intense activity on a specific workout machine to get your heart rate up and then moving on to the next. For example, you might start with a set of 15 lat pull downs, followed by a minute on the bike, followed by a set of leg extensions, and so on. The fun and challenging aspect of circuit workouts is that they constantly redirect your attention, so your brain has to work just as hard as your body. 
  • Ballroom dancing: The beauty of any kind of dance is that it combines cardiovascular exercise with mental demands to manage coordination, rhythm, and strategy. Experts suspect that this type of exercise even helps improve your cognitive skills.

In addition to these types of exercise, Cleveland Clinic’s Healthy Brains advises that it’s important to work on your balance and flexibility as you grow older. Improved balance helps protect against falls and enhances coordination, and it can be achieved through activities such as yoga and tai chi, as well as with simple exercises like walking backwards or standing on one foot. Being more flexible will help your posture, give you more energy, and reduce your chances of getting injured. You can work on your flexibility with yoga, stretching, or tai chi.

No More Excuses

We’ve discussed the benefits of regular exercise for brain and heart health. We’ve also suggested some forms of exercise that you can try out. Now, let’s turn our attention to the single most important reason that more people aren’t reaping the benefits of exercise: excuses.

Prevagen has discovered that there are three commonly used excuses for failing to exercise. 

A lot of people complain that they’re too tired. However, it’s important to understand that leading a sedentary lifestyle actually makes you feel more and more tired. Exercise, on the other hand, energizes you and makes you feel good. It also makes you stronger so that you can get through the day feeling less tired, and it improves your sleep, so you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed.

Not having sufficient time is another common excuse, but working out only takes 30 minutes of your day. If you’re really busy, you can watch presentations or make important phone calls while you’re cycling or running on the treadmill. You could even hold walking meetings so that you and your coworkers get moving and enjoy some fresh air at the same time.

Finally, some people believe that they can’t work out because they can’t afford a gym membership. However, there are some very affordable gyms out there with fees as low as $10 a month. But if you really can’t spare that, don’t worry; you can still work out by yourself. For example, you can go for brisk walks or take up jogging. Or you could start exercising in the comfort of your own home. And if you’re not sure you’re doing it right, there are plenty of expert articles online about everything from starting a walking practice to training for a 5k to learning how to lift weights to beginner’s ballroom dancing. 

Get Active Now

You’re only given one body, so you need to take care of it. If you make the time to start exercising for 30 minutes 5 times a week, you can significantly boost your brain and heart health, which can help you live a longer, healthier, and happier life. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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