Exercise and the brain

18 Jun

Renee wrote:

“I heard a piece on NPR a week or so ago that the best thing you can do for your brain is to get more exercise!”

While I would shy away from the word “best,” there is little doubt that regular aerobic exercise has substantial cognitive benefits.

Aerobic exercise helps our brains in several ways. First, and, perhaps, foremost, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and vascular dementia.

Second, as one study reported:

“These results suggest that cardiovascular fitness is associated with the sparing of brain tissue in aging
humans. Furthermore, these results suggest a strong biological basis for the role of aerobic fitness in maintaining and enhancing central nervous system health and cognitive functioning in older adults.”

In addition, aerobic exercise has been associated with improved memory and increased size of the brain region known as the hippocampus. The hippocampus is involved in the consolidation of long term memories.

Finally, exercise has been shown to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which, in turn, stimulates neuron growth. 

So regular aerobic exercise should be a central part of any memory improvement program. In addition, this research suggests that efforts to cut physical education programs in the schools may be short sighted.

One Response to “Exercise and the brain”


  1. Reduce your risk of dementia | peakmemory - July 17, 2013

    […] 1. Exercise. Regular vigorous exercise not only reduces your risk of vascular dementia, it appears to boost cognitive functioning in general. […]

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