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How Physical Activities Stimulate the Brain

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is exercise good for your brain

There are many reasons to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule: improved cardiovascular health, increasing strength and bone density. But studies have shown that physical activity can have a positive effect on the brain as well. While we may not be able to exercise our brain in the way that we exercise our muscles, we can use physical activity to sharpen and improve cognitive functions. 

Physical Activity and the Brain

Exercise can help the brain both directly and indirectly. Directly, exercise can reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, while stimulating the chemicals in the brain to affect the health of the brain and the growth of new blood vessels in the brain. Indirectly, exercise can improve mood and sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety. Anxiety can cause an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, which can damage the parts of the brain involved with memory and complex thinking. Taking action through exercise can help you reduce your stress and lower those cortisol levels. Studies have even shown that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who do not. Exercise can also help improve focus, energy, and attention.

You may be wondering how much exercise you need to do to experience the benefits. Official exercise recommendations have increased over the years. The Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes or 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity a week, or 75 minutes of more vigorous activity.

If getting started with an exercise routine sounds overwhelming, keep in mind that starting anywhere is better than not starting at all. Not sure where to begin? Think outside of the box, and try not to worry too much. Research shows that all kinds of exercise can be an effective way to manage stress and stay mentally healthy. The important thing is that you find an activity you enjoy and stick with it. Finding ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine can be as simple as thinking about what you love to do. If you enjoy music, maybe a dance class would be a good fit to get moving. If you find yourself happiest in the woods, hiking, rock climbing or mountain biking can be a fun way to exercise. 

Journey Home Can Help

Journey Home is the perfect fit for teens who are ready to build upon skills learned in therapeutic settings but recognize they still need guidance and support to further develop their success. Journey Home blends a traditional home setting with positive peer and staff relationships. At Journey Home, we believe in the value of good health and healthy hobbies, two crucial aspects of happy, successful adults.

Unlike many other transition programs, residents at the Journey Home participate in weekly therapy, alternating between family and individual sessions. During the week, residents also attend two group therapy sessions, led by the Journey Home therapist. These groups are Healthy Lifestyles and a therapeutic processing group. For more information please call (385) 304-3603.