Fitness is often centered around the body and making physical changes, with the mental euphoria that follows a workout regarded as more of a byproduct. But have you ever considered making your brain your priority? Perhaps learning how to work out for your brain would help you feel even more motivated to incorporate movement in your life. Personally, I think tracking progress in terms of a healthier mental state rather than the typical bodily transformation is something worth trying.
"Even though you may not realize it, your brain is just like any other tissue in your body and benefits from exercise," Ronnie Lubischer, CSCS, owner of Lubischer's Burn and Blast Training, tells Elite Daily over email. "Numerous studies have shown that a lifestyle of physical fitness can improve memory, mental acuteness, increases in information retention, as well as help stave off the onset of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s."
Part of this, says Lubischer, is due to increased oxygen and blood flow to the brain through exercise. According to the trainer, that flood of oxygen and blood to your brain helps to generate new neurons and build stronger connections between existing ones. In other words, your brain really likes exercise, guys.
"This boost to your brain also helps with the release of a plethora of hormones integral to nourishing and regulating the body," Lubischer adds.
And it doesn't stop there: There are also the behavioral benefits of exercise on the brain, the trainer says, including the trigger and release of dopamine (aka a neurotransmitter related to pleasure and reward) and endorphins. If you've ever experienced the euphoric feeling commonly referred to as “runners' high”, then you know exactly what these chemicals feel like. "[Dopamine] actually decreases stress levels and helps with your body's regulation of cortisol," says Lubischer.
So, during your next sweat sesh, how can you tend to not just your body, but your brain, too? According to Lubischer, the types of workouts that can best help to strengthen your noggin are those that combine coordination along with cardiovascular exercise.
If you want to work out for your brain, Lubischer suggests taking up workouts like ballroom dancing or gymnastics. Are you up for the challenge?
If not, it's all good. I, for one, have two left feet, so it's a relief to know that, according to Lubischer, even basic speed and agility drills, or workouts such as HIIT and boxing, can do wonders for your brain. The thing here is, even though you may think you're only focusing on and using the muscles below your neck, "those muscles are stimulated and activated by neurons that start in your brain and are part of a complex system that not only trains your muscles and heart, but your brain, too," the trainer tells Elite Daily.
In addition to things like HIIT, yoga can also provide some benefits for your brain. Research from the American Pain Society revealed that sticking to a consistent yoga practice may be linked to increased amounts of healthy gray matter in the brains of people with chronic pain and depression, meaning the gentle exercise can potentially improve your ability to experience genuine happiness, more balanced emotions, and a higher pain tolerance.
That's what I like to call brain gains.