physical activity

Physical Activity and Your Brain – How Smart Are You?

Recently, we’ve been talking about breaking up sitting time and taking little “exercise snack breaks” to get a bit of physical activity in because long hours working at your desk zaps your energy and leads to poor posture.  But can moving more actually make you smarter? 

Well, okay maybe you’re smarter for doing it, but can even a bit of physical activity and moving more improve your brain function?  Let’s find out.

While I admit to being a bit of a science geek, you gotta admit this is interesting.  Way back when, we’re talking 335-280 B.C., several Greek physicians-philosophers discovered cool things about the nervous system.  One guy in particular, Herophilus, dissected human cadavers (yuck) and uncovered (no pun intended) the structure of our brain and nerves.  He discovered that the brain’s motor nerves are joined to muscles which allows us to move, and the sensory nerves go to organs which allow us to feel. 

I’m conjecturing here, but I imagine to him the brain was everything, and he started connecting the dots to movement and how that affected the brain.  Now this part is true – he believed that exercise and eating a healthy diet were not only fundamental to having a healthy body, but also maintaining a healthy mind. 

Since those days, we’ve learned a lot about the human body and the connections that exercise and physical activity have on brain function.  We now know that…

Physical activity improves your brain – specifically, memory and cognitive processes.

So, standing up from your desk and moving around even for short bits, gets the blood flowing to your brain and improves your focus and thought process. 

I’ll go out on a limb here – improving your memory, focus, and cognitive processes can make you smarter.

We also know that physical activity releases endorphins that reduce pain and induce pleasure.

So, standing up from your desk for a short while helps take the pain and stress off your neck, head and shoulders.

And, hey, anytime up or away from the desk can make you happier, right!?

So, the bottom line is that even short bouts of physical activity can have a positive effect on your brain’s function as well as being good physically.  I’d say that makes you smarter!

Reference:

Di Liegro, C. M., Schiera, G., Proia, P., & Di Liegro, I. (2019). Physical Activity and Brain Health. Genes, 10(9), 720. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10090720