Exercise can have profound effects on numerous biologic systems within the human body, including the Central Nervous System (CNS). Read more to learn how exercise can benefit your CNS function.
Exercising improves many aspects of life such as maintaining weight, improving cardiovascular function, increasing energy, and slowing down signs of aging. These are all improvements brought on by physical movement. Did you know that aside from looking thinner or gaining muscle mass that you are also giving your nervous system a workout? Your central nervous system (CNS) is getting a pretty good workout when you do physical activity.
The central nervous system is one of the two parts that make up the nervous system of the body. The nervous system functions by releasing hormones and by sharing electrical impulses throughout the body. The CNS is the primary messenger system of the body. It contains the brain and the spinal cord which are encased by the skull and vertebral column. The CNS works together with the peripheral nervous system (PNS) to complete all daily tasks. The main function of the central nervous system is to work together with the peripheral nervous system to control an organism’s behavior. Everything you do from exercise to tying your shoes is the result of the central nervous system.
WHAT DOES THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM DO?
Like stated before, the central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord. These are two of the most important parts that make up a person. Without your brain or spinal cord you would not be reading this article, let alone living! Your brain is very complex and works through the spinal cord which works through the nervous system. Think of your nervous system as an operating system. Every line, in this case nerve, connects to some other nerve to produce an action. Your CNS sends impulses from the PNS through the spinal cord. This goes from being able to wake up, getting out of bed, eating, and exercising at the gym. If your nervous system was not functioning, you would not be able to do any of that.
HOW DOES EXERCISE AFFECT YOUR CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM?
Exercise has a big role in a properly functioning nervous system. The human brain is one of the most complex objects on Earth. The brain can do so many unimaginable things without even having to think about it. One of the most important tasks that you brain does is releases hormones. There are a ton of hormones that are produced in the body but the brain produces one of the most important, neurotransmitters. These hormones have a direct effect on your mental and physical health. By participating in physical activity, your brain gets a workout and is able to release many of these hormones to keep the body functioning properly. Some of the neurotransmitters that are released act as antidepressants. I’m sure you have heard that exercise can be the best therapy and while you may not think it is true, it scientifically is. Exercising helps to release these neurotransmitters from the brain through the central nervous system. The four main types of neurotransmitters that have a direct effect on your mood are endorphins, serotonin, adrenaline, and epinephrine. All four of these improve your mood in different ways and are released from the brain, especially during physical activity. Endorphins are known as the “feel good hormone” and for good reason. They have been shown to actually alleviate pain. They are also called the natural painkiller. If you are feeling down or have a light body ache, start exercising. Your brain will begin releasing these hormones and you will suddenly feel better. Another hormone that is secreted from the brain during exercise is serotonin. This hormone has been shown to improve mood, sleep, and appetite. Although the brain can produce serotonin on its own, it’s only in small amounts. This may be enough to keep someone who is already healthy and happy at bay but for someone who suffers from mild depression, external factors are needed to get these hormones secreted. Exercising is one of the most influential ways that serotonin is released. Participating in exercise regularly increases the body’s level of tryptophan which is also in the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is used to create serotonin. Other ways to increase the serotonin levels in the body is through diet and sunlight.
TYPE OF EXERCISE FOR THE BENEFITS
Exercise of any kind will have a positive effect on the release of neurotransmitters. But does one type have a bigger benefit than the other? Looks like it. Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to improve your mood much more than weight lifting does. Exercises such as running, biking, taking an aerobics class, or just going for a walk have been shown to have a more positive effect on improving someone’s mood rather than participating in a weight lifting session. Have you ever heard someone say that they have runners high after going for a long run? Well this “high” is the effect of these neurotransmitters being released from the brain through the central nervous system. It’s rare that someone will feel that high after a weight lifting session. This has to do with the high intensity of the exercise. Many cardiovascular exercises tend to be high intensity such as running. While weight lifting can be intense, you would need to reach a certain level of intensity in order to get the full effect of the release of these hormones. It’s best to create a program that involves both high intensity cardiovascular exercise as well as weight training exercises. If you are in to yoga, hot yoga has been shown to really increase the release of these hormones because it is classified as a cardiovascular exercise due to the raise in heart beat.
HOW LONG DO YOU NEED TO EXERCISE TO FEEL THE BENEFITS?
If you were to go for a run right now, you would feel the benefits of endorphins working almost immediately. The brain is such a powerful organ that it can release these hormones the second your feet hit the pavement. In order to feel the full effect, full time, you need to perform at least thirty minutes of vigorous exercise at least three days a week. This is the amount of time that you should exercise in order to keep your brain sending hormones through the central nervous system in order to keep your mood elevated.