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PodcastYour Brain on Exercise

Your Brain on Exercise

Washington Post Health and Wellness Columnist Gretchen Reynolds hosts Radio Headspace all week. Today, she talks about how exercising the body can actually improve our cognitive abilities. Learn more about Gretchen's work on washingtonpost.com.

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Better mental health starts with Headspace

(air whooshing) (mouse clicking) (bright music) Headspace Studios. (ethereal music) Hey everyone, I'm Gretchen Reynolds, your guest host for the week. Welcome to Radio Headspace and to Tuesday morning. If you listened yesterday, you know that my work is all about the science of fitness. And this week, we're diving into how exercise can benefit your wellbeing. So today, we're breaking down what happens to your brain when you work out, and why exercise may even help you have a newfound sense of purpose. One of the reasons that I personally keep exercising is because of the science about how much effect exercise and physical movement can have on the brain. Exercise can pretty quickly influence your sense of wellbeing, it can influence your happiness, it can influence creativity. And it can have tremendous effects on mental health, particularly depression, anxiety, and stress. What I have found over the years of writing a column about exercise is that I really need to go for a workout before I start the column because it clears my mind and it doesn't matter if I actually think about the writing while I go for the walk or the run. In fact, it's probably better if I don't, and I come back and my ability to focus, my ability to be creative is so much stronger. (ethereal music continues) So, how does exercise affect the brain? Immediately, if you even just get up, you improve blood flow to your brain. And that's quite important because your brain cells are then getting more oxygen, they're getting more food, they work better. Also, your muscles when they start contracting, they immediately start producing various chemicals that move to your brain. And those chemicals actually jumpstart processes that lead to improvements in the structure and the function of your brain. There have been some very good studies showing that walking, in fact, walking in a blank room if you're staring at the wall actually wound up improving people's creativity almost immediately. People who walked staring at a blank wall could then come up with more creative ideas than people who did not walk. If you go out and walk outside in the sun and see the beautiful greenery, that almost certainly improves thinking even more. And over time, it can have a tremendous effect on how well you could think as you age. And it also has an effect on how well you can think right now if you have to do a presentation. Or, if you're a younger person, how well you will do on a math test. (gentle upbeat music) Research has shown that exercise does seem to help provide what the researchers call a sense of purpose, which usually means something like you feel that your life has meaning, you feel that you have plans and goals that you want to implement. And if you think about it, that's also how a lot of people who exercise consider their exercise routine. It gives some structure...


Duration5 min

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