Health

Does physical activity have positive effects for the brain?

Physical exercise has clear benefits on the human body. The increased blood flow that occurs during physical activity increases the body’s oxygen levels, helping to reduce the risk of heart conditions such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. Regular physical exercise also helps lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, but does it also benefit the brain?


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The answer is that regular, moderate physical exercise has been shown to have direct benefits on physical and mental health. Various epidemiological studies confirm that physical activity directly influences the reduction of anxiety, stress and depression levels. It is also a good complementary therapy for those patients in the process of treating addictive behaviors.

The WHO warns of the need to reduce the time spent daily in sedentary activities

The WHO warns of the need to reduce the time spent daily in sedentary activities

Rossand Helen

Maintaining a routine of physical activity contributes to the prevention of cognitive deterioration associated with aging and reduces or slows down the risk of developing dementia. In people suffering from this disease, exercise is also advisable because it helps to have a better quality of life.


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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines physical activity as any type of body movement produced by skeletal muscles that involves energy expenditure and includes moving from one point to another. Among the most common and recommended physical activities, according to the WHO, are walking, cycling, dancing, swimming and cycling.

Cycling is a highly recommended exercise

Cycling is a highly recommended exercise

CARLES ITURBE

recommended activity level

The WHO recommends that adults engage in moderate aerobic physical activity for at least 2h30′ to 5h per week or intense aerobic activity for at least 1h15′ to 2h30′ per week, although it clarifies that it is beneficial to increase these periods. Among its recommendations, it also includes doing moderate muscle strengthening activities in the main muscles of the body. In any case, the level of intensity also depends on the characteristics of each individual and their state of health.

The WHO warns of the need to reduce the time spent daily in sedentary activities and replace them with some type of activity. For example, daily walking for an hour continuously is a recommended practice for any age. It also finds that regular physical activity helps prevent and control non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease and some specific types of cancer. In addition, incorporating this habit allows you to control weight, hypertension and improves mental health.

In this sense, physical activity, in addition to improving cognitive function, has beneficial effects on memory and attention level. The most plausible explanation is that it stimulates blood circulation in neural circuits involved in cognitive function. The increased cerebral blood flow releases more oxygen into the brain tissues and reduces tension. At the same time, it increases the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with the control of emotions and moods. When this neurotransmitter increases, it causes a decrease in anxiety and depression levels, psychotic behaviors and headaches. And it also improves self-confidence, emotional balance, cognitive function, self-control, and sexual satisfaction.



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logo clinic PortalCLÍNIC is a project of the Hospital Clínic and the BBVA Foundation. The information in the article has been prepared in collaboration with PortalClínic, of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona and documented by health professionals.

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