Being physically active has many benefits, including reducing the odds of heart disease, stroke and diabetes; and helping to lower blood pressure. Studies have also proven that regular exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills. Researchers found that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, which is the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
With dementia diagnoses on the rise, exercise is a promising strategy for combating cognitive decline, by improving both brain structure and function. How is it that exercise impacts the brain? The direct impacts are through the way it reduces inflammation, reduces insulin resistance and and stimulate the release of the chemicals in the brain which affect the health and growth of brain cells. Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.
So what kind of exercise do you need to do to improve your brain? Anything that gets your heart pumping is recommended. Ideally half an hour four to five times a week. But if you’re just starting, start small if that works better for you! Try going for a brisk ten minute walk each day, and work up to more. If you want a low impact option, try swimming, elliptical machines, rowing, bicycling, or water aerobics.
This TedTalk is another great resource to learn more about the benefits exercise can have for you!