Exercise is great for us in a variety of ways. We reduce the odds of developing heart disease, reduce the chances of a stroke, help prevent depression, lower blood pressure, and even keep diabetes at bay. It also makes us feel and look better.
With these impressive results, it’s no surprise exercise benefits another vital organ: the brain. Thanks to a study done at the University of British Columbia, “researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.”
Are you noticing midday brain fog, or just poorer memory in general as you age? Exercise can help! It reduces insulin resistance, reduces inflammation and stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that not only protects the survival of new brain cells, but helps the growth of new blood vessels in the brain.
Exercise doesn’t just help individuals who are aging and experiencing signs of memory loss. It also helps students learn more efficiently and retain knowledge better, and working professionals maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Looking to improve your Back to School routine? Exercise for kids is a great place to start. Better yet, exercise as a family. Long walks, bike rides, yard games are all great options. When winter hits, consider snow shoeing, sledding and cross country skiing; plus, there’s always the local fitness center family membership.
Not only does it directly help your actual brain cells, but it indirectly affects the function of your brain and your quality of life by reducing stress and anxiety. Both stress and anxiety are known to contribute to cognitive impairment or memory issues.
I know what you’re wondering — what sort of exercise is required? How much and how often? An instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School notes it requires “regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months to a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.” To break it down: the participants in the study walked “briskly” for an hour twice per week. So, aim for 120 minutes of moderate activity per week.
Note that the study references aerobic exercise. This is the type of movement that gets your heart pumping and causes you to sweat slightly. If you aren’t a fan of walking or even running, try swimming, tennis, dancing or even your normal household activities. The key is to be active and get your heart rate up.
Lastly, while aerobic exercise may be best for brain health, it’s always great to mix up your routine for muscle development, strength training and weight loss. Get creative! Find a workout buddy to walk with you, do push ups in the park, or go to an exercise class.
It is important to think of exercise like a prescription: commit it to habit and make it a part of most of your days. It is, after all, a medicine!
Best of health,