If you’ve read my short articles over the last 10-plus years, you know how much I push exercise. Not just for the body but the brain. Other than stopping smoking, if you smoke, there is nothing you can do that is more powerful for your health than movement.
Allow me to review some of the brain benefits of regular movement: Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise protects your memory. It does this by increasing the size of your brain. The more brain, the more memory. We all know that inflammation destroys the brain. One of the leading, well agreed upon facts as to the cause of dementia of any kind is the inflammatory component of it. No matter the type of brain loss/dementia, there is an inflammatory component.
One reason this is so detrimental is the fact that the immune system of the brain is damaged by inflammation. Amazing cells in the brain called microglial cells fight anything and everything in the brain that should not be there, including things that cause inflammation. As we age, these cells slow down and weaken. Exercise reprograms these microglial cells and makes them more responsive to inflammation. Simply put, your microglial cells start taking steroids when you exercise.
As this article has a word limit, let me conclude with the fact that your brain needs blood to survive and be optimal. Our brain receives 15 percent of our body’s entire blood flow, despite only being 2 to 3 percent of its entire mass. Daily exercise increases the growth of new blood vessels and this supports the growth of new brain cells. It also enhances the current brain cells and makes them stronger. Exercise is also one of the most powerful modulators of high blood pressure. In other words, it lowers your blood pressure, thereby protecting your brain from the detrimental effects of hypertension.
Against the social media gods, forget exercising to look like a supermodel. Forget exercising to reach a fitness goal. Exercise for your brain. As a doctor who has seen a lot in a lot of years, do not let your brain fade away. Fight for it by moving every day!
Dr. Warren Willey is a Pocatello physician. Visit his website at drwilley.com.