The mind-body connection is one of the tenets of modern wellness. It is a significant part of yoga. In Pilates, movement and breath are synchronized to improve body awareness, balance and alignment. One of the common denominators in the fitness and wellness programs at All Wellness, the mind-body connection helps us learn to become active participants in our own well-being.

But when we think of the mind-body connection, we usually think of emotional health rather than a brain activity. Think again. Exercise is fat-free, calorie-free brain food. Short bursts of exercise, even moderate exercise flood the brain with oxygen, serotonin and dopamine. These chemical floods increase focus and attention and make us feel happy, calm, even euphoric. Focused attention and calm are manna for students of any age.

Let’s look at some of the findings on brain function:

According to Science Daily: exercise appears to change brain structure, prompting the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels. It also increases the production of neurochemicals… that promote growth, differentiation, survival, and repair of brain cells.

In Physically Active Play and Cognition, a report by Jacob Sattelmair and John Ratey, findings suggest that: physically strenuous play synthesizes the neural benefits of both exercise and play by simultaneously providing physical, social, and intellectual stimulation. This synergy of stimuli creates a positive challenge or stress to the brain, which in turn causes the brain to adapt, resulting in healthy cognitive development. In this respect, physically strenuous play constitutes an enriched environment, which entails physical activity, social interaction, and novel (or intellectual) stimuli. Research with rodents, as well as with elderly humans, shows that an enriched environment stimulates neuroplasticity, enhances cognition (learning and memory), and prevents cognitive decline with aging.

According to the Franklin Institute Resources for Science Learning : Mental stimulation improves brain function and actually protects against cognitive decline, as does physical exercise.

The human brain is able to continually adapt and rewire itself. Even in old age, it can grow new neurons. Severe mental decline is usually caused by disease, whereas most age-related losses in memory or motor skills simply result from inactivity and a lack of mental exercise and stimulation. In other words, use it or lose it.

image credit: spacesuityoga