Work out for your brain
If your passion is health and wellness, then you already know the amazing benefits of exercise – it’s good for your physical body, mental health and prevents disease. But did you know it’s also great for your memory? It’s yet another reason to lace up those sneakers.
In a study done at the University of British Columbia, data shows that consistent aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippocampus – the part of the brain used in learning and verbal memory. Aerobic exercises include cardio, movements that increase the heartbeat and sweating. Other types of exercises, such as muscle toning, balance and resistance training, did not produce the same effects.
Researchers say that by 2050, more than 115 million people worldwide will have dementia. Scary, right? So this finding couldn’t have come at a better time.
In addition, exercise helps people with chronic insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation. When we sleep better, our brains function better. So not only does exercise have long-term memory effects, it also boosts our short-term memory and mental performance.
How exactly does exercise affect the brain?
Exercise benefits the body by reducing insulin resistance and inflammation. It also stimulates various areas of growth in the brain: chemicals that contribute to healthy brain cells; new brain blood vessels; and new brain cells. Additionally, studies suggest that people who exercise have a larger prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex – the sections of the brain that control thinking and memory – than people who do not exercise.
How often should you be exercising?
In one study, participants walked walked for one hour, two times per week at a brisk pace – 120 minutes. People are typically advised to engage in half an hour of moderate physical activity on most days – brisk walking, running, dancing, swimming, etc. – for a total of 150 minutes per week. Even if this seems too much for you, starting out small and adding a few minutes every week will help you transition to add more exercise in your life. You can also go on brisk walks during your lunch hour, rather than sitting and eating for the entire hour.
Look better, feel better, and live longer and clearer with regular exercise. Additional forms of cardio exercise include: rowing, jumping rope, walking up and down stairs, running on the beach, hiking, or aerobics. There are endless possibilities. Find the one you enjoy!