A recent article in the Chicago Tribune by Julie Deardorff gives a person another reason to exercise. Physical fitness has a crucial role in how the brain develops and functions. From infancy to old age, exercise is linked to positive changes in the brain.
Starting in infancy, movement is necessary for proper development. In children, exercise has been shown to improve attention and focus, as well as developing coordination and ability to perform complex motions. In the elderly, new work is showing the benefit of physical exercise in staving off dementia.
Physical exercise has a broad range of benefits for the brain. These effects are true across our whole life span. Higher cognitive functions of attention, memory and multi-tasking are improved by exercise. In the 1990’s, the protein brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) was found. This protein supports the growth of brain cells. Exercise triggers the production of BDNF.
Now we know exercise is good for all aspects of the body, and doctors and health associations are taking note. The American Heart Association has promoted exercise for the improving your heart health. Pain physicians have promoted exercise to reduce pain by elevating endogenous opioids in the body. All physicians promote exercise to help in healing injuries, as exercise is critical to keep us healthy in mind and body. There is no perfect pill that will alleviate your ailments; sometimes the best course of action is to get off the couch and go for a run.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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