Learn 5 Physical Activities to Improve Your Brain Function
Based on current research literature, we know a single chiropractic adjustment can improve overall brain function by 20%. We understand specifically the prefrontal cortex undergoes functional improvement with chiropractic care. This part of your brain is a little bit like the conductor of the brain and is responsible for making all the other parts of your brain cooperate together in perfect harmony. It is where your executive functions take place. Autonomic function, decision making, intelligence, eye movements, memory and attention, spatial awareness and processing of pain are all improved with your adjustments.
Additionally, we know that exercise also enhances and helps us maintain healthy brain function. Regular exercise reduces stress, boosts mood, improves sleep and supports healthy blood pressure levels. Here is a list of the 5 best exercises for your brain health.
The 5 Best Exercises for Brain Health
Swimming is an intense aerobic exercise that works the heart and lungs and involves all of the major muscle groups. This makes it a powerful activity for brain health. As one of the most intense aerobic sports, swimming increases blood flow to the brain, which increases neurogenesis in the hippocampus and improves focus, attention, memory, and cognition, as well as triggers the release of endorphins, a well-known hormone known to reduce the perception of pain throughout the body and elevate mood.
Research shows that children with ADHD may benefit from swimming, as exercise can impact the developing brain—particularly aerobic exercise as it promotes neural growth and cognitive development. A 2020 review study examined a growing body of literature that suggests a potential role for physical exercise in the treatment of ADHD as it may reduce ADHD core symptoms as well as improve executive functions.
Of course, swimming is immensely calming and meditative, as the sound of your breathing and the water rushing by brings about an inner focus without outside distractions. It’s an excellent activity to do at any age.
Dancing boosts brain health in unique ways as it involves coordination, social bonding, and music, which activates multiple areas of the brain. The music that goes with dance additionally stimulates the brain’s rewards centers, and the social connection has been shown to alleviate depressive symptoms. Indeed, dancing makes us feel good. It releases feel-good endorphins and increases levels of the hormone serotonin, which reduces stress, and helps us develop new neural connections, improving overall cognitive function. A randomized controlled study that looked at the effects of dance on depression on college students found that a group participating in dance training 3 times a week for 12 weeks showed that depression levels had decreased. Dance protects our brain from decline. In a cohort study involving more than 450 seniors over the age of 75, it lowered participants’ risk of dementia. While any kind of dance is beneficial, the dances requiring memorization of steps are better for brain power!
Yoga is universally valued for its calming effects, but it does so much more for the brain. In addition to quieting a busy mind, yoga and other mindful exercises have been found to reduce anxiety and depression, increase focus, improve cognition, and protect against neurodegenerative diseases. Yoga soothes overactive basal ganglia, reducing anxiety. Research indicates that more active yoga practices followed by relaxing ones lead to deeper relaxation than relaxing practices alone.
Yoga has also been shown to improve cognition. A study published in the Journals of Gerontology found that participants who practiced 8 weeks of regular yoga had significantly improved performance on the executive function measures of working memory capacity and efficiency of mental set shifting and flexibility compared with a control group that did stretching only.
A 2019 study review published in Brain Plasticity revealed promising early evidence that yoga practice can positively impact brain health. Looking at 11 yoga studies, the review found that, like aerobic exercise, yoga activates areas of the brain that have trouble as we age, and it may potentially mitigate age-related neurodegenerative decline.
4. Strength Training
When you build your muscles through strength training, research shows that you also strengthen your brain health. A review of strength training research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that it is associated with numerous mental health benefits, including reduced anxiety symptoms in healthy adults, improved cognition among older adults, reduced symptoms of depression in those diagnosed with depression, improved self-esteem, and better sleep.
Just last year, a human study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Sydney found that 6 months of strength training followed by 12 months of normal activity can help protect brain areas especially vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Table Tennis
Of all the brain-boosting sports activities, table tennis reigns supreme. It is highly aerobic and requires tremendous coordination. Japanese researchers first recognized that the game activates as many as 5 separate areas of the brain simultaneously in a clinical study titled, “The Effectiveness of Exercise Intervention on Brain Disease Patients: Utilizing Table Tennis as a Rehabilitation Program.”
The study found that ping-pong players with brain disease showed better brain function and awareness, as well as decreased dementia and depression.
Ping-pong’s aerobic activity increases blood flow to the brain, which is associated with improved cognition, better memory, an increase of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and hippocampus neurogenesis, according to research.
Just last year, preliminary research in Neurology presented on Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and table tennis showed that PD patients demonstrated significant improvements in speech, handwriting, getting dressed, getting out of bed, and walking after a 6-month regimen of regular ping-pong sessions. Table tennis is now used therapeutically to mediate the effects of neurodegenerative diseases.
Most of these brain health benefits apply to all racquet sports, including popular and fast-moving pickleball, racquetball, and tennis. What’s more, they can be enjoyed by people of every age and have very few instances of brain injury!
Chiropractic & Exercise to Care for Your Brain
Incorporating chiropractic care into your lifestyle improves your brain function. And remember, any exercise at all benefits the brain, but integrating these brain-boosting physical activities into your life will give you more brain-powered bang for your effort!
Resources: Dr. Heidi Haavik, Amen Clinic Website 11/2/2021