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Physical Activity and the Brain

Physical Activity and the Brain

In February I was fortunate enough to attend SCW Mania, one of the country’s most renowned fitness conventions. A place where the fitness community-all my peeps-go to be educated, inspired and recharged! It’s where we get to try a new move, experience the newest technology or be right next to your favorite presenter, that’s inspiring!

While there were many different lectures and workshops to choose from, there were two topics that were pervasive throughout the event.

The first: Wearable Technology. Today consumers are results oriented, and these tools help us to train at the proper intensity level, build strength and muscle endurance and to keep us in the proper training zone for optimal results!

The second: Physical Activity for Your Mind. There were a great number of lectures and workshops on this subject. Furthermore, those who registered early had an opportunity to register for an 8-hr certification course to become an “Active Aging Movement Coach” and be certified to teach to this growing population.
This area of “training the mind” is especially intriguing to me since I lost my father in-law back in August to Alzheimer’s disease, and understand first-hand the effects of the disease on the family unit and the wide range of emotions a family experiences when a loved one has Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

So let’s examine why physical activity is so good for the brain?
  1. It spurs brain growth.
    Neuroscientists around the globe agree that exercise and physical activity throughout your lifespan delay the onset of many diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. It boosts brain-building hormones to boost your memory.
    This is especially true in the hippocampus, the brain region that is largely responsible for memory and which is particularly vulnerable to age-related decline. The more you exercise, the more your cardiovascular fitness improves and the more (BDNF-protein gene found in the brain) you produce.
  3. Exercise help fights depression and anxiety.
    Depression slows the brain’s ability to process information, makes it more difficult for us to concentrate and reach decisions, and causes real memory problems. Exercise can help lift your mood, by cranking up the body’s production of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals crucial to happy mood.
  4. It improves your brain’s executive function.
    Executive function basically means cognitive abilities like being able to focus on complex tasks, to organize, to think abstractly, and to plan for future events. With only 30-45 minutes of aerobic exercise-where you break a light sweat, you’re working your memory, such as the ability to keep a phone number in your head while you dial.

Bottom line: Don’t sit still!

The cognitive spillover from exercise reminds us that our brains don’t operate in isolation. Regardless of your age, even if you are ill or pregnant there are many compelling reasons to keep moving. Don’t have the discipline to do it on your own? Not to worry, there are 90+ class options you can try on our schedule, two floors of equipment to spice up your routine, 17 training professionals available to answer your questions, and let me not forget, our complimentary SMART START option-a great tool to get your started or back on track and help you make the most of your exercise time.

I look forward to seeing all of you making the most of your workouts in our fitness and wellness center.


Diva Pavan, Manager of Group Exercise and Pilates. You can reach Diva at divap@jccrockland.org or 845.362.4400