While it's commonly known that exercise can help with depression, seasonal affective disorder and anxiety (and I defy any study that says it doesn't!), it also has other benefits from the brain -- as well as all the benefits for the body, of course.
For the body, our hearts and lungs are strengthened, especially with cardio sports like swimming, tennis, aerobics, running, biking and anything that gets the heart rate going. And our muscles and bones are built up from these exercises too.
For mood disorders, the increased dopamine and serotonin that comes from exercise can ease the feelings that occur from depression or anxiety. But there's more to the brain than that.
Researchers have found that exercise may actually help to prevent or delay Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
Two studies from Harvard that were presented at last year's Alzheimer’s Association International Conference showed that people who took more physical exercise could delay the decline of the brain for between five and seven years.
The first study involved 2800 women who were over the age of 65 and had heart disease, or were at risk for it. Heart disease puts people at higher risk of developing cognitive decline.
After being given many cognitive tests and reporting their levels of physical activity, the results showed that women in the top two-fifths of physical activity levels suffered the least cognitive declines over a period of five years.
Researchers did make it known that self-reporting of physical activity is not always accurate.
The other study featured fewer than 200 men and women who were over the age of 75, in good physical and cognitive health.
The study lasted between two and five years, and again showed that the more active the participant, the less likely he or she was to experience a cognitive decline.
In this study,more objective measures were made to determine the participants activity level against cognitive impairment. Testing was done using a mental exam that measures attention span and memory.