For years many exercise enthusiasts have suspected that exercise positively affects the brain as well as the body. But while it seemed logical that an active lifestyle would help the brain, the scientific evidence was lacking.
Now several biological studies indicate that working out does benefit the brain. The new insights help confirm the notion that exercise has overall health benefits.
The reasons to get moving are greater than you think. It's common knowledge that physical activity generally makes you feel good and helps keep your body lean and in prime working order. Now researchers also are finding biological evidence that exercise benefits specific brain mechanisms.
Much of the new research suggests that exercise positively affects the hippocampus, a sea-horse shaped brain structure that is vital for memory and learning.
In one recent study, researchers found that adult mice doubled their number of new brain cells in the hippocampus when they had access to running wheels. The fact that the mammalian adult brain can increase its number of brain cells is surprising in itself.
It was once thought that the brain stopped producing new brain cells early in its development. And presumably brain power dimmed as cells died over the years.
But in the past decade, researchers have found definitive evidence that the brain continues to generate new brain cells throughout life, even in humans. Studies indicated that challenging environments, which included a number of components, such as pumped-up learning opportunities, social interactions and physical activities, were key to boosting the growth.