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Improving brain health through exercise

With mounting evidence that exercise is good for the brain and may even slow brain ageing, Dr Sohail Al Rukn, President of the Emirates Neurology Society and neurologist at Rashid Hospital, discusses how aerobic exercise is just as good for the brain as it is for the body.

If this does not get you running, maybe knowing that exercise will put you in a good mood will. “Exercise also helps the body release chemicals called endorphins,” said Dr Rukn. “Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body. Regular exercise is known to improve your mood, reduce stress, reduce anxiety and even depression and improve sleep.”

The golden question is what type of activity or exercise should one follow. Dr Rukn says: “This research talks about aerobic exercises and while that is important it is good to mix up your exercise to include resistance training etc so that the workout is balanced. This will help achieve overall good health.

“This research has looked at walking and participants walked briskly for one hour, twice a week. However, it is important to note that this was for research purpose. General recommendation is half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week.”

Dr Rukn adds: “There are so many options for aerobic exercises and if individuals have other health problems it is best to seek a doctor’s advice before chalking out an exercise regime.”

Walking, running, swimming, cycling, rowing, boxing, kickboxing, and dancing are all different types of aerobic exercises that can provide a host of health benefits.

Discussing the importance of setting the right kind of goals when it comes to exercise, he says, “| think there needs to be a mindset change, especially in terms of understanding the right reasons for exercising. The younger generation seems to be hooked on to achieving a certain body shape, size, etc and while it is good to have goals, I think it is better to think of making exercise a regular habit. Once that is achieved, getting into shape, or improving physical and mental health become incidental.”

He adds a word of caution: “While exercise is important, healthy nutrition, mindfulness and adequate sleep also go hand-in-hand.  Opt for whatever motivates you but commit to establishing exercise as a habit, think of it like prescription medication.”

 

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