It is common knowledge that exercise is an important part of an individual’s well being. It is not common knowledge, and not yet understood is the important benefits received from exercise. Exercise is generally regarded as a “fat Burner” and people look at exercise solely as a way to lose unwanted weight and pounds; however its benefits can meet specific health needs and change the structure and functioning of your brain as well. One major factor in the declining health of Americans and individuals around the world is the lack of exercise.
Everyone would love to exercise if it was easy, or wasn’t time consuming, but it is. In order to reap the benefits of exercise you first must be motivated to do it. Without the knowledge of exercises specific benefits to each component of both our brains and body specifically there is limited or no motivation. In this paper I will discuss both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for exercise and how individuals can become self motivated and take ownership for their physical health. It is now well established that changes in motor activity can alter brain structure.
Animals or people that are exceedingly sedentary or living in environmentally impoverished states appear less resistant to a variety of illnesses. Although repetitive unskilled exercise has a positive effect on circulation, mood, and overall health specific Skilled Motor Training Exercises can alter one’s brain structure and promotes neuron growth. Increasing an individual’s bodily movement in the form of exercise, learning new motor skills has beneficial effects on brain structure. Increasing an individual’s daily activity also appears to be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of some neurological disorders.
Techniques such as attempting to complete tasks with the opposite hand, attempting to complete multiple tasks at one time can prove to be difficult, but can also increase motor skills and increase the occurrences of synapses in the brain therefore positively altering the brain structure (Donaghy, 2007). The effects of repetitive exercises that do not generally require the individual to learn new behaviors, and exercises that require learning new skills differ in their positive effects on brain structure.
This is described as the difference between a simple exercise for example jogging (which individuals do not have to learn to do), and participating in a sport like tennis or skiing which requires the participant to learn new motor skills, and for the body to develop muscle memory. Researchers have found that simple exercises like running, and or swimming do increase the cerebellum’s vascular supply, and circulation, but did not show the increase in the detectable synapses in the brains structure (Black et all, 1990).
Though most animal studies of the effects of exercise or motor training on brain structure have focused on the hippocampus, there is evidence that other regions show benefits as well(Donaghy, 2007). In addition to the overall circulatory benefits of activity, structural changes have been detected in those specific regions which are triggered to help carry out the activity. In these specific regions such as the hippocampus, the cerebellum, the motor cortex and the striatum there is detected an increase in the brain vasculature as well as an increase in the number and structure of brain synapses.
When training your body, muscle growth slows once the exercise becomes repetitive and easy. Just as our bodies, our brain responds to new challenges and changes in environment and need the introduction of new sports, movements, and exercises which increase the amount of motor skills needed to complete each exercise. Without new challenges and reaching new skill levels the beneficial effects on the brain may wane, although the vascular benefits will remain.
Though easy and common exercises such as jogging, biking, and swimming don’t ultimately protect neurons as effectively as skilled motor training does, unskilled exercise alone appears effective in promoting vascular growth in the brain. The health benefits of exercise are clear cut, but until and individual can find what factors will motivate them to exercise, the commitment to exercise will not exist. The largest intrinsic motivation for exercise is survival. Survival can include the avoidance of the following health issues Hypertension, Cardio Vascular Disease, Obesity, Diabetes, Osteoporosis, and hysical stress reduction, along with cardio vascular health, and improved circulation.
Regular exercise also has many different mental health benefits such as decreased depression, stress reduction, the association and positive effects on mood, the positive effects on the cognitive function in fit older adults, and the positive effects of exercise on physical self-perceptions and body image (Donaghy 2007). Studies have also shown the benefits of exercise can mirror that of cognitive therapy (Donaghy, 2007). According to the World Health Organization by 2020 Depression will be ranked as the second highest problematic Disease.
And because depression can lead to suicide, creating a culture where society has healthy exercise habits will save lives. This subject of exercise and its effects on both brain and body health have very personal meaning in my life. Although I consider myself a healthy person, and I exercise often, and attempt to eat healthy, I realize that those attempts are not enough to keep my blood pressure at acceptable levels. As an African American male I am genetically predisposed to higher blood pressure, which may indeed be true, but I am also a man that is 6 feet tall weighing 230 pounds which is considered overweight.
I am now challenged with not determining the cause of my high blood pressure, but how to reduce both my weight and my blood pressure. Knowing that high blood pressure often causes strokes and heart disease, it is of utmost importance for me to take immediate steps to improve both the vascular fitness of my brain and my body. This assignment has brought personal knowledge and understanding that I believe can have long term benefits to my health. With every new endeavor, including making changes in our society and promoting physical and mental health and well being there needs to be motivation.
However before motivation comes education. More emphasis is needed in schools, and teaching young people how exercise is vital to not only our physical, but mental health. Once the knowledge is shared, I believed there will be a greater understanding and motivation to increase our physical well being, and a culture of healthier individuals will develop. This increase in knowledge and motivation could not only prove to produce healthier individuals but, could maximize the efficiency and capabilities both our bodies and our minds.