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Exercise is the best thing you can do for better brain health and function. Here’s why...

Insights from Genazzano’s Director of Sport, Mr Nick Wall

We all know that regular exercise is good for our heart. We also have an understanding that regular exercise, along with a balanced, diet maintains a healthy weight. If we want to gain strong muscles and produce high standard sporting performances, again, we highlight the importance of exercise and training.

In fact, for most health conditions, exercise is prescribed as the best method of prevention. To improve our mental health, we often start with something as simple as a walk, or, we might use a high intensity run to reduce stress. But, how often do we really stop to consider the important benefits of exercise to our brain? 

As our heart rate increases with exercise, blood flow to the brain increases and in turn, our brain is exposed to more oxygen and nutrients. Exercise induces the release of proteins which nourish and maintain the health of our brain cells as well as stimulating the growth of new neurons which are vitally important to our overall brain health. These neurons are the building blocks that make up the nervous system. They transmit messages to the body from the brain.

As 2020 in Melbourne saw our lives controlled by lengthy lockdowns and periods of isolation, many turned to exercise to improve their physical wellbeing and/or, just to legally be outdoors. As a side bonus, many also realised the incredible benefit this daily exercise had on their mood, nutrition habits, and as a result, their sleep patterns. Regardless of whether it was directly or indirectly, the brain and body greatly benefitted from this increase in exercise.

At Genazzano FCJ College, our VCE students displayed wonderful agility as they found ways to stay focused in preparation for exams and assessments via Zoom classes from equally innovative teachers. As they experimented with daily routines and study habits, some identified this strong link between exercise and improved mental capabilities. One of the trends observed by our Year 12 morning fitness cohort was an increased ability to think creatively after exercise, and similarly, to problem solve better after physical stimulation in the morning.

Exercise is proven to boost our memory, both short and long term, and unsurprisingly, our students’ observations were that they increased productivity as a result of regular exercise routines. The fact that many of our highest performing VCE students maintained their fitness routines through the most stressful of study periods provides support to this theory of increased information retention as a result of exercise.

It was not only the memory boosting functions of exercise that were important to our students but also the ability to stay focused, maintain concentration and multitask. Being active naturally provides more energy for daily activity and in turn, helps us sleep better at night. We also know that improved sleep increases brain function.

We are constantly learning more about the benefits of physical activity on our mental health, daily moods and brain function.  It is essential to provide the encouragement and support of regular daily exercise to keep the brain healthy. When you then combine the emotional, mental and physical benefits, it makes sense that everyone should be prescribed a daily dose of exercise!

Nick Wall, Director of Sport, Genazzano FCJ College