Why Our Brains Need Physical Exercise

By Shawn VanWinkle, D.C., D.A.C.N.B

We all know how important exercise is for our health but very few of us understand the impact it has on keeping our brains healthy. Over the last few decades, I’ve noticed a trend of increased sedentary lifestyles and kids struggling to pay attention and do well in school. In many curriculums they have decreased the number of hours for physical education. Our brains are designed to crave movement to keep them sharp and capable of learning new tasks throughout life.

In many ways, we can think of our brains as a machine that organizes how we interact with our environment. Every machine needs a battery or power source to keep it working. For the brain, this power source comes in the form of activation from nerve cells throughout the body, especially from muscles and joints. Gravity is one constant force that is always activating our nervous systems. Researchers have identified that in addition to losing muscle mass in space, astronauts will experience shrinkage of their brains. Many of them have to undergo cognitive therapies after a mission.

While gravity plays a significant role in keeping our brains healthy, it is not the only requirement. When we move our bodies, it will also activate neurons in joints and muscles that send signals to the brain. Our brains are constantly craving activation and by moving our bodies we are in essence charging up our brain to be able to handle a wide variety of other physical, emotional and mental tasks. When we don’t get exercise, our brain will respond to let us know to get moving. Our mental focus will become less sharp; we will often become easily irritated and frequently experience agitation. This is why kids are struggling so much in school to sit still and learn and may even experience emotional outbursts. Many of these children are now being labeled with ADHD when what is really going on is their brain is telling them they just need some time to play and exercise!

If you find yourself experiencing decreases in your mental focus and abilities or changes in your mood or behavior, try adding in some regular physical activity into your daily routines. Your brain will thank you!

Copyright © 2017 Colorado Integrative Neurology. All Rights Reserved. Shawn VanWinkle, D.C., D.A.C.N.B. is a Doctor at Colorado Integrative Neurology. To learn more about how we can help you with your health goals visit our website at www.coloradointegrativeneurology.com or email us at cin@coloradointegrativeneurology.com. A free initial consultation can be scheduled by calling our office at (720) 328-5076.