Exercise: It Improves Your Memory! | Alzheimer's Prevention Registry

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December 20, 2016

Exercise: It Improves Your Memory!

By Alzheimer's Prevention Bulletin

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If you want to keep your memory in good shape, you may want to take a few more laps around the walking track. The reason? Leading experts worldwide agree that physical activity improves brain health.

The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) – scientists, doctors and others who specialize in brain health – recently reviewed the scientific proof and found that a physically active lifestyle:

  • Changes how your brain works in good ways.
  • Decreases your risk for developing memory problems as you age.

The GCBH report – The Brain–Body Connection: GCBH Recommendations on Physical Activity and Brain Health – focused on people age 50 and older. It also noted that people can become more physically active at any age. 

“We know that exercise improves physical health,” said GCBH issue expert Arthur Kramer, PhD, Senior Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Education at Northeastern University. “It reduces the chance for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions and stroke. Now we know that it also helps keep your brain healthy throughout life. If you want to live independently as you age, then being physically active throughout life may help.”

What kinds of physical activities improve brain health? The GCBH report divides physical activity into two categories: 

  1. A physically active lifestyle – People who have a physically active lifestyle are up and moving throughout the day. They may walk instead of drive or take the stairs instead of the elevator. People who have a physically active lifestyle tend to have hobbies that include movement, like gardening or yoga. 
  2. Purposeful exercise – This means exercise that you plan and do regularly. It may include swimming laps, participating in a group exercise class, riding a bike, lifting weights and more. People who take part in purposeful exercise are taking part in an ongoing fitness program.

How long and how intensely you need to exercise for your brain health is a topic for more study, according to Dr. Kramer. The GCBH report notes that heart specialists currently recommend about two and a half hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week. This recommendation varies depending on the health and age of the person. 

“We know in general that what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain,” Dr. Kramer said. “The GCBH report shows this link is true for exercise and the brain.”

You can put the mind-body connection to work in your life now by rolling out your yoga mat or lacing up your running shoes.

“People can reap the mind-body benefits of physical activity and exercise with moderate lifestyle activities and purposeful exercise,” said Dr. Kramer. “You don’t have to be a marathon runner or triathlete to experience the benefit.”