Exercise and Brain Health

Staying physically fit can help improve brain health and it doesn’t matter when you begin.

You know the wide-ranging benefits of exercise.  Physical fitness is important for weight loss, bone strength, heart health and more.  Now there’s research to suggest that staying physically fit can help improve brain health as well and it doesn’t matter when you begin.

Research has demonstrated that just three hours of light exercise weekly can lead to improvements in executive function, a type of cognition that refers to the ability to plan, multitask, self-regulate, and manage complex tasks, within just six months.  Better still – those three hours do not need to be at a high level of intensity. Type of aerobic exercise is less important than simply raising your heart rate and getting your blood pumping.

Scientists have found that consistent physical activity can change the brain’s structure and function. Aerobic exercise expands the volume of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, and can alter connections between the brain’s various networks that support memory and decision-making. These shifts in the brain’s properties can have important cognitive benefits. Exercise leads to molecular and cellular changes that support improvements in cognition. Regular exercise has been shown to improve executive functioning, as well as harder-to-define aspects of functioning, like dealing with ambiguity.

The current research is great news for older adults. The growing body of research demonstrating the benefits of exercise and physical health on cognition demonstrates that brain health can improve with age.  Getting just those three hours of light to moderate aerobic exercise weekly can have largely beneficial effects on memory, attention, and decision making.  So, it just goes to show you, it’s never too late to get in shape – your brain health depends on it!

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