Collage of people doing exerciseSpring is nearly upon us! It’s time to dust off that bicycle and basketball of yours and do some exercises. If your location is experiencing the last of a cold spell, consider going to a community centre or gym to get some exercises. In a series of post called “Being active is good for the brain”, Dr. Scott Lear says that when we exercise, our body releases hormones called endorphins – the happy hormones. After exercising, endorphins are released, giving you a euphoric feeling – or in the running world, the runner’s high. Did you know that this euphoric feeling can also be felt with low levels of activity?

Research literature supports a link between exercise and increased positive mood, reduced depression and anxiety, and greater well-being. In research studies, those who reported higher psychological well-being exercised more frequently than those with lower psychological well-being. Exercise also helped with stress management. In “The cascade of positive events: Does exercise on a given day increase the frequency of additional positive events?“, the authors said that “exercise might be categorized as a positive event within the context of an individual’s day-to-day life”.

Dr. Lear added, “The benefits of exercise appear to be even greater the worse our mood is prior to exercising.” He’s had some of the best workouts when he releases stress by going for a swim or bike ride. Exercise can also improve memory and cognition, helping you think better and in turn, achieve more. According to this New York Times article, going for a post-meal walk, as short as 15 minutes, can help with digestion and improve blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. For people with depression, exercise is a proven therapy to reduce depressive symptoms.

In conclusion, exercise improves memory and cognition and leads to an increase in BNDF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) – low levels of BNDF are associated with greater risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Studies in people with dementia have not shown improvements in cognition and symptoms with exercise. However, there was an improvement in the ability of people with dementia to perform day-to-day activities such as getting dressed and bathing, which help to prolong independent living. Though exercise improves a number of risk factors associated with dementia such as high blood pressure and diabetes, researchers agree more studies need to be conducted about the relationship between exercise and dementia.

Given the benefits of exercise, let’s take baby steps and start by taking the stairs and going for a walk after lunch! Happy exercising!

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