Choosing Exercise to Better Your Brain Health

Exercise is widely accepted as an activity to control weight, fight disease, improve mood, and boost energy, but what exercise is best for your brain? Two new studies look at different types of exercise and analyze how they influence brain health. The results? Let’s just say Nia is and has been on the right track! Read on.

One study looks at what exercise most positively aids in the development of the prefrontal cortex, the place where your brain monitors your behavior and decisions, while another study looks at the hippocampus in the brain, your learning and memory centers. While some forms of physical activity may be positive for your overall health, research is showing that perhaps you can now knowingly choose exercise that positively impacts specific brain functions.

Diamond, a researcher from the University of British Columbia, analyzed the prefrontal cortex. This part of your brain suffers more than any other region if you are depressed, stressed, lonely, sleep-deprived or physically inactive. The study specifically looked at participant’s executive functions: the ability to think before you act, think outside the box, and hold and analyze information.

Diamond found older adults who participated in only resistance training and typical aerobic exercise had little or no cognitive benefits in their executive functions, while older adults who participated in aerobic exercise, resistance training, and eye-hand and eye-foot coordination had improved executive functions.

Similarly, younger children who participated in martial arts and yoga showed the most improved cognitive function in all three areas of executive functions than children who participated in other physical fitness. Davis, another researcher, also predicted “activities that require frequently crossing the midline and/or rhythmic movement, might be particularly valuable.”

In another study, Miriam Nokia, lead researcher from Finland analyzed the hippocampus and looked at what exercise aids in neurogenesis, the creation of new brain cells, which positively impacts your learning and memory capabilities. Researchers compared the results of running, weight training and interval training, and found rats that participated in running or sustained aerobic exercise, had higher levels of neurogenesis and created more new brain cells than those that participated in weight or interval training. This study was clearly not completed on humans, but as Nokia states, the findings suggest, “sustained aerobic exercise might be most beneficial for brain health also in humans.”

While both studies highlight the need for further research in the influence of exercise on brain health, the beauty in the results are that they both speak to the foundation of the Nia workout. Not only does Nia bring you a sustained aerobic exercise but each class includes eye-hand and eye-foot coordination, incorporates yoga and martial arts, has movements that cross the midline, and are layered with fun, rhythmic movements for everyone. Since the beginning of the company, Debbie Rosas has been asking people to “think outside of the box,” and created a fitness practice that impacts your body, mind, emotion and spirit. Research is now showing what Nia has been doing for the past 35 years!

As a researcher Diamond writes, “We need to have people do things that they absolutely love, that bring them great joy and pride and build their self-confidence, and things that make them feel less alone and more a part of a larger community working on something that all participants value - in addition to improving physical fitness.”


By: Katie Janovec

Photo by Unsplash