Training hard and exercising helps you look after your physical health. But did you know that it could also impact your mind and cognition? In recent years, there’s been a treasure trove of research into the connection getting active has on your brain. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting evidence in this area and how it could impact you.
Boosts Your Memory
Feeling forgetful? Whether you’re as sharp as a whistle or completely scatterbrained, taking care of your memory is important. This aspect of your wellness becomes even more pertinent as you age. In fact, up to 20% of Britons over the age of 65 suffer from some form of memory impairment, according to national statistics. With that in mind, protecting your brain’s ability to remember ahead of time should be a top priority.
Believe it or not, heading out a quick training session may be the way to go. Recent research from the University of Iowa suggests that exercise can help boost memory performance. Participants in the study undertook a 12-week aerobic training regime. The researchers tested the participants both before and after this period. The results showed some working memory improvements throughout the group. This intriguing finding points to exercise helping to boost your memory in the long term.
Protects Your Brain
Working out could also help you protect your brain as you get older. One in-depth review, published in NeuroImage Journal, suggests that exercising regularly can protect the brain from decreasing in size as you age. The researchers held reviewed 14 clinical trials and worked with more than 700 participants. The results showed that taking part in two-to-five exercise sessions per week could help prevent age-related brain decline.
“When you exercise you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which may help to prevent age-related decline by reducing the deterioration of the brain,” said Joseph Firth, lead study author in a review of the study. “Our data showed that, rather than actually increasing the size of the hippocampus per se, the main ‘brain benefits’ are due to aerobic exercise slowing down the deterioration in brain size. In other words, exercise can be seen as a maintenance program for the brain.”
Enhances Learning Ability
Looking for a way to enhance your learning? Yes, you guessed it, exercising could help you in this department too. This year, animal-based research from Oregon Health and Science University revealed that short bursts of exercise could have a striking effect on the brain. The study suggested that taking part in aerobic exercise could increase the connections between neurons in the hippocampus part of the brain.
Let’s break down what that means in easy-to-understand terms. Since the hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory, this change could offer remarkable benefits. The researchers suggested that simply engaging in short periods of exercise could help prime people’s brain for learning new things. If you’re hoping to do well in exams, perhaps you should hit the gym before you hit the books for a double whammy.
Improves Blood Flow
The better the blood flow in your brain region, the better your brain will work. It’s that simple. Research from the University of Maryland looked at adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and low blood flow to the brain regions. The participants undertook a 12-week exercise routine designed to help improve their health. After the period was up, the results showed that the participants had improved blood flow and higher cognition.
"A reduction in blood flow may seem a little contrary to what you would assume happens after going on an exercise program," Dr. Carson Smith, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology said in a review. "But after 12-weeks of exercise, adults with MCI experienced decreases in cerebral blood flow. They simultaneously improved significantly in their scores on cognitive tests."
Your brain and your body don’t exist in separate realms. They are intrinsically linked. When you look after your physical health, you will find that it has a striking effect on your brain and the way that it works. Ensuring that you create (and stick to!) a stable workout routine that fits with your daily life is always a smart idea. Take that time to schedule fitness sessions into your lifestyle—you will thank yourself later.