You already know that exercising helps you
build strong muscles, maintain a
healthy weight, and ward off disease. But research suggests that working out also
boosts thinking skills, and encourages brain cells to grow as we age. Any form of exercise will
do, particularly anything that involves
focused movementor requires learning new skills. Physical activity also tends to improve
mood, sleep habits, and stress levels—all of which can cause, or
lead to, cognitive impairment later on in life. Here’s what experts
have to say about how exercise can improve memory.
It preserves your ability to think, reason, and remember.
“Regular aerobic exercise may increase the size of the hippocampus—the
part of the brain [that is] responsible for learning and verbal memory,” explains
Dr. Vernon Williams, sports neurologist and director of The Center for Sports Neurology and
Pain Medicine at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles. “And,
these benefits aren’t for senior citizens alone. In short, exercise
can change the brain for the better, and by doing so, [it] can help to
protect thinking skills and memory in anybody.”
Dr. Lee Know, a licensed naturopathic physician and author, says that physical activity
creates an increased demand for energy, which fuels your brain. Working
out is crucial if you’re interested in keeping to your ability to
remember a phone number, think abstractly, or plan for a future event.
“Exercise is one of the only things definitively proven to boost,
or at least maintain, long-term cognitive health, and reduce the risk
of dementia, like Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Know.
The research backs it up. A
2011 study indicates that exercise is highly effective at helping your brain store
long-term memories, as well as remember people, places, and things. In
other findings, workouts with balance and coordination aspects
directly impact brain structure for the better. And
regular strength training sessions can improve task performance. In another study, exercising four hours after learning something new
proved to help with
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