The Brain Benefits of Regular Exercise for College Students

Posted June 25, 2013 in Education, Healthy Lifestyle No Comments »

Exercise is Great for Your Brain!

College Chick
We all know that exercise is good for our bodies. Doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity workouts 3-5 times a week as a way to ensure optimum cardiovascular health, and you know that you feel better when you’re getting your body in motion.

In addition, you might use exercise as a way to tone or build muscle, increase strength, flexibility, coordination, and endurance, lose weight, or even address the symptoms of chronic illness (like pain or arthritis).

Depending on the type of activity you choose, you could gain a wide variety of physical benefits from your exercise routine. But for college students enmeshed in their studies, the pursuit of physical perfection can be a hard sell.

Luckily, exercise also provides plenty of advantages on the mental front, as well. And for students seeking ways to boost brain power, this could be a major boon.

Need a Mood Boost?

As you may know, exercise has the ability to stimulate the release of both endorphins and serotonin, those handy mood-boosters and stabilizers that leave you feeling great after a particularly intense workout. For students dealing with high stress levels, this is practically a necessity.

Now, you might think this has more to do with your emotional state than your mental one, but the hormones and nerve signals that control (or at least affect) your moods originate in your brain. And if you can utilize exercise to sway them in your favor, why wouldn’t you?

A student that is fatigued, depressed, and anxious is not going to perform as well during any kind of mental challenge. But the one that feels calm and happy is bound to do significantly better, all things being equal.

Build a Bigger Brain

Of course, exercise could do a lot more than put you on cloud nine. It can actually make your brain bigger, according to a 2009 study conducted by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Head researcher Kirk Erickson set out to observe the effects of an active lifestyle on the brain activity of elderly patients. And what he discovered was rather shocking. Seniors that practiced regular aerobic fitness tended to have a larger hippocampus than those who were sedentary. This area of the brain is responsible for spatial memory, or the type of data that allows people to navigate within their environment.

The findings of the study suggest that growth of the hippocampal region could be linked to exercise. So good news for students: exercise could actually help your brain to grow!

Better Sleep

In truth, the main benefits of exercise on your brain start out as physical gains. When you regularly set aside time for exercise you’ll find that you’re more relaxed and you sleep better. This is good news for your brain since it means that you can fight the fatigue that plagues most college students, as well as increase your focus, comprehension, retention, and so on.

Increased Clarity

In addition, exercise can also help to clear your brain, as anyone who jogs, bikes, hikes, or swims on a regular basis can tell you. And of course, yoga can take it to the next level by adding a component of meditation to the mix.

Whether you’re going for a health information management degree online or you’re interested in law, accounting, or film production, regular exercise can help you to optimize your brain power and make the most of your college experience.

The fact that it helps you fight the freshman fifteen is just icing on the cake.


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