Does exercise help brain function? Studies show… it can! In today’s world, so many activities and work are done online. We need more brainpower to accomplish what we need to and communicate effectively. But this also makes us more sedentary.
As we age, sometimes we notice a decline in our brain function. Information in our memory is harder to retrieve. Here is one simple thing we can do to help our brains: Exercise
I’ll go over a few reasons why it helps brain function. Then I’ll explain different types of exercise and the results of studies on memory and exercise. Finally, I’ll give you a few ways to easily integrate simple exercise into your routine. So, does exercise help brain function? Let’s jump in…
Effect of Exercise on the Brain
Exercise increases blood flow to the brain so it follows that brain function is increased. Many experts are starting to believe that it’s possible that exercise can be a deterrent to Alzheimer’s and Dementia. One study shows an increase in the outer layer of the brain, the cortex, which typically atrophies in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
In a group of people with mild cognitive impairment, a potential early stage of Alzheimer’s, the results of a study on exercise showed improvement in the left insula and superior temporal gyrus, two brain regions that typically show increased degeneration in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. But results were seen in both healthy people and those with MCI (mild cognitive impairment). This is super encouraging.
Types of Exercise Studied
In the studies mentioned already, just walking 30 minutes 3-4 times a week made a difference. A few studies have had people riding a stationary bike.
Aerobic exercise is a sustained activity from low to high intensity which increases heart rate and breathing for a period of time. This includes walking or riding a bike as mentioned above. Or jumping jacks. Or squats. Anything that is sustainable.
Short burst exercise was also studied and some researchers find it to be just as effective as longer exercise periods. (Good news for most of us!). Not everyone has time or physical capacity to exercise for longer periods of time. Instead, riding a bike at 70% of their max ability for 6 minutes showed a great positive effect on the brains of participants. Running as fast as you can for a short period is another example. Researchers found that a 10-minute burst of exercise can measurably increase your brainpower.
Low-Cost Ideas That Fill the Bill
Mini trampolines. Walking through the neighborhood. Walk around the pond at the local park. Local gym. Walk through the local mall before the stores open. Simply running in place or jumping jacks in front of the TV.
Exercise Resistance Bands. Easy to store and get out whenever you want a little resistance training or toning. It just makes you feel better. I also have these and a little really helps a lot.
Exercise While You Work
Really cool desks for standing while you work. Many can flex to sitting as well. Some even come with a treadmill! Check it out. This is a top supplier to corporations but not as expensive as you might think. High quality.
How Can You Easily Fit Exercise into Your Normal Day?
Other than the standing desks above, here are some other ways to get more exercise. I like to use my mini trampoline / rebounder while I’m watching the morning news. I could sit, or I could exercise. Since it takes less time than running or swimming to get an effective workout, this is a fantastic option. Especially if you live in a wet climate.
Exercise bands (above) are Really easy and give you some muscle tone. You feel stronger and allows you to do more aerobic activities. And you can spend as little as 5 minutes helping your body get stronger so you can help your brain get stronger.
At work, you could walk around your building at lunch. At the grocery store, you could take a few ‘laps’ around the store. Go to a mega-store or big box store. 😀 We know how much walking we do there. Just keep moving.
A quick and easy exercise! Stretch out your arms parallel to the floor, as far as you can, palms facing out, fingers pointed to the sky. Make small circles in a forward direction for 20 repetitions. Then go backward for 20 reps. Remember, small circles. Easy way to exercise your upper arms and get some blood pumping. This is a great warm-up for more vigorous exercise, as well.
So.. Does Exercise Help Brain Function?
Most definitely, based on the research that has been done on healthy people as well as memory-impaired people, exercise is proven to help the brain and cognitive function and improve memory. There really is no reason not to try it since there are so many benefits to our health in general by exercising. You help your heart, lungs, lower cholesterol, increase bone health, as well as a feeling of well being, And your memory!
Please offer your experiences or comments below. It is appreciated!
Novella, S. (2015). Exercise and Memory. Science Based Medicine. Retrieved on June 16, 2019, from https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/exercise-and-memory.html
University of Western Ontario. (2017, December 21). Short-term exercise equals big-time brain boost: Even a one-time, brief burst of exercise can improve focus, problem-solving. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 16, 2019, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171221122543.htm
Wood, J. (2018). Exercise May Help Reverse Neurodegeneration in Older Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 16, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2015/11/22/exercise-may-help-reverse-neurodegeneration-in-older-adults/95125.html
Wood, J. (2018). Spurts of Exercise Can Enhance Memory. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 16, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2012/11/28/spurts-of-exercise-can-enhance-memory/48217.html