How does physical exercise help keep my brain healthy?

Aerobic activity that gets the heart rate up for extended periods of time boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a chemical that plays a role in neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells. Think of BDNF as a sort of Miracle-Gro for your brain. When you exercise, your brain sprouts new cells. When your brain doesn't create as many new cells as it loses, aging occurs.

Research studies show that exercise generates new brain cells in the temporal lobes (involved in memory) and the prefrontal cortex (involved in planning and judgment). These new cells survive for about four weeks, then die off unless they are stimulated. If you stimulate these new neurons through mental or social interaction, they connect to other neurons and enhance learning. This is why you have to exercise consistently to encourage continual new cell growth in the brain. It also explains why people who work out at the gym and then go to the library are smarter than people who only go to the library.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.