Most people already know that exercise is good for the body. If you need another reason to get or stay active, here’s one. Exercise is also good for the brain. Regular, moderate exercise improves memory and thinking.
The closest thing to a magic bullet
It would be hard to overstate the value of exercise on overall good health. Exercise reduces the risk of chronic illness and obesity, improves heart health, boosts wellbeing and can even ease anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Exercise may even provide some protection against dementia and incontinence.
Exercise does the body and mind good
According to the Harvard Health blog, exercise that gets your heart rate up helps reduce anxiety, improve sleep and mood. That provides an indirect benefit to brain health because too much stress and too little sleep can negatively impact cognition.
How exercise helps
Exercise reduces inflammation and insulin resistance. It also boosts the health of brain cells and chemicals. Heidi Godman, writing for the Harvard Health newsletter, says regular exercisers typically have a larger prefrontal cortex. That is the region of the brain concerned with thinking and memory.
What kinds of exercise help?
The brain gets the most benefit from exercise that increases the heart rate and activates the sweat glands. Just about anything you do at a moderate intensity will work. Walk at a brisk pace, swim, play ball, dance or go for a run. Researchers have found that just six months of regular exercise yields increases in the brain regions associated with thinking and memory. Aim for 150 minutes weekly. That’s about 30 minutes, five times weekly. Break that into smaller, more frequent sessions if you are low on stamina or time.
Just get moving
Even awareness of the many benefits of exercise is not always enough motivation to get moving. If you’re having trouble getting started, it can help to think of your future self. What proactive steps can you take today to make life better for yourself tomorrow? It also helps to think outside the exercise box. If you hate biking, why not sign up for a salsa dance class? Remember, anything that gets your heart pumping counts. So, do what you love. Your body and your brain will be better for it.