A neurologist shares his go-to brain-healthy exercises

YOur feet pound the pavement, your heart rate rises and your breath hitches a little. You’re getting in your cardio for the third time this week, and it’s great to know you’re building a healthy heart and lungs. But did you know that the same cardio training has a huge effect on your brain?

While heart health has been a big focus for some time, brain health is starting to become more aware. And heart health and brain health go hand in hand, since heart disease like high blood pressure is a major risk factor for things like stroke.

“By working out, you’re working on your brain for the future,” says Nahayo Esperant-Hilaire, MD, a third-year neurology resident at UCLA Health. “A stroke is a brain disease. If you don’t take care of yourself with exercise and diet, your cholesterol will go up. As it goes up in the heart, it goes up in the brain. The blood vessels narrow and get cut and then you have a stroke. That’s the same way people have heart attacks. .”

Keeping your brain healthy can be considered equal more More important than your heart, according to Dr. Esperant-Hilaire: “If you trash your heart, we can give you another heart. If you trash your brain, unfortunately we cannot give you another brain,” he points out.

So, how does an expert keep his own brain healthy?

Dr. Esperant-Hilaire’s personal workout routine is to run for 45 minutes to an hour in the morning. He tries to do this every day, but now that he’s in residence his schedule can fluctuate and some weeks it’s more of a challenge. But he always makes sure to run at least thrice every week. “You have to be flexible,” he says.

Although Dr. Esperant-Hilaire loves running and often recommends it to her patients, she also recommends biking, power walking, and swimming (great for those with joint problems, she notes). “The higher the intensity, the better the heart rate,” he says. These exercises should be done about three times per week if performed at a vigorous level for at least 15 minutes, or if performed at a moderate level for 30 minutes or more.

Other Brain Benefits of Continuous Cardio

In addition to preventing strokes, regular cardio workouts have also been found to help those struggling with migraines. By a 2020 journal review Current pain and headache Report states, “A regimen of vigorous aerobic exercise alone is sufficient to produce statistically significant reductions in migraine frequency, intensity, and duration.” Dr. Esperant-Hilaire says the research shows that exercise can even be as effective as medication.

Aerobic exercise can also help with depression due to the involvement of endorphins. “By exercising, your happy hormones are released,” he says.

Of course, activity is not a cure for serious mental or physical health problems. But wearing shoes for regular exercise can be a big step in helping keep your body and brain in shape.

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