Everyone knows exercise is good for the body, but the majority of Australians are unaware of the vital role that exercise and physical activity play on brain health. Being physically active throughout your life can help to preserve your cognitive function and may help to protect you from conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
This week is Brain Awareness Week, and Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is championing the importance of regular physical activity for the brain, as well as the body.
"We are growing increasingly aware of the importance of brain health and preserving your cognitive function, especially as you age," says ESSA CEO, Anita Hobson-Powell.
"Dementia is now the second leading cause of death of all Australians, and the leading cause of death for women in this country."
Exercise plays a crucial role on both brain function and mental health, and research is consistently reiterating the fact that a healthy body supports a health brain.
Last year, a World Health Organization (WHO) report stated there was significant evidence that being physically active can help to reduce your risk of developing dementia. Research has shown that regular exercise can increase the volume of the hippocampus, which is the memory center of the brain. It also helps to improve cognitive function and can slow cognitive decline in older adults.
"It's important that people remember that exercise isn't just about physical health," says Anita.
"Hopefully by highlighting the important benefits of exercise for brain health, we can encourage more Australians to meet the National Physical Activity Guidelines of a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week."
More resources about exercise and brain health can be found on the Exercise Right website. You can also download the free Exercise & Mental Health eBook to learn more about the effects of physical activity on mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.