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Aaptiv Asks Dr. Williams If Exercise Can Improve Memory?


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 improves memory, 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 information retention.

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