Brain flex

We tend to think of exercise as only for our bodies, but researchers are starting to understand the impact exercise has on our minds.

Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki has looked at the research, which found that:

1. Exercise has an immediate positive effect on your brain by increasing the feel-good neurotransmitters and will improve your mood for hours afterwards.

2. A single workout can improve your ability to shift attention and concentration as well as your reaction times. 

3. Regular exercise can also have a protective influence on your brain, reducing the risk of neurodegenerative changes and the natural process of aging. 

Researchers are investigating how much exercise is optimal (currently 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week) and what type is exercise might be best for different ages and brains.

The former NSW minister for education, Adrian Piccoli, spoke recently about declining academic results of teens and Anglo-Australian parents’ obsession with sport at the expense of academic achievement. He may have some points, but it’s also important to consider exercise as being for the brain as well as the body. Exercise helps children focus, shift attention, and grow their hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. How would it be for us all if we understood and accepted the importance of exercise for growing not just healthy bodies but healthy minds?  

Tarnya Davis is a clinical and forensic psychologist and principal of NewPsych Psychologists.