When starting a consistent exercise routine, a lot of us do so for aesthetic reasons. While this is great, and a healthy weight is a benefit of exercise, there is so much more exercise can do for our bodies. It lowers blood pressure, preserves heart health, prevents diseases, and helps us sleep better. But another long-term effect of exercise is preserving cognitive function as we age, and keeping our brains as sharp as they can be. Read more about the research behind how exercise improves brain health.
Improves memory and cognitive function
In a study, participants who regularly moved more scored significantly better on a memory and thinking test than those who were sedentary.
In those who are predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s or dementia, aerobic exercise is great at lowering that risk. And even if you aren’t at risk of these conditions, exercise is extremely neuroprotective.
How does exercise improve brain health?
The effects of exercise on the brain are for a few different reasons. One is that it causes increased blood flow to the brain. And more blood flow to the brain means it functions to the best of its ability. Another is that it reduces stress hormones that cause inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain. Brain inflammation is the root cause of a lot of neurological issues, and exercise helps keep that down. Through those factors, exercise is a great way to boost brain function naturally.
Additionally, a great benefit of exercise is increased neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to form new neural pathways/connections and “adapt throughout life.” One of the key brain areas in which this happens is the hippocampus. And that means memories become stored better as we age.
Overall, exercise benefits the health of all the systems in our body. And if you needed another reason to go for a run or pick up some weights, think of how healthy you want your brain to be years and decades from now.