My brother and I were born in the ’80s and more than half a decade later, my sister arrived. What we have most in common during our childhood was my mom who was always telling us to go play outside. There we would run, jump, climb trees, ride our bicycles and even play cricket in the street.
And this is exactly what I want for my children – not only to have all these childhood memories but also to be more active and to enjoy being less indoors.
Luckily my husband is also very fond of cycling and running. I guess this is where my son picked up his love for running and trust me when I say that Liam takes every opportunity he gets to race against friends. He can, at times, be very competitive.
But let us investigate what happens physiologically in our brains when we are busy with physical activities such as exercise.
Being engaged in physical activity; whether it is dancing, running or cycling, increases blood flow, and therefore the amount of oxygen that goes to the brain also increases. This then boosts neural connectivity and stimulates nerve cell growth in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a brain structure that is embedded in the medial temporal lope of each cerebral cortex. It is also the centre of learning and verbal memory. The hippocampus also regulates motivation and emotion.
This means that exercise in fact then physically changes this structure of the brain. I think the major benefits from a bigger hippocampus would be improved attention and memory, increased brain activity, increased cognitive function, enhanced mood and being able to cope with stress.