Daily exercise touts a litany of benefits. It prevents heart disease, strokes, diabetes mellitus, and even cancer. It promotes healthy weight maintenance, regulates blood pressure, improves mental health, and helps clear age-related brain fog. But can it improve memory, thinking capabilities, and more?
Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that when you do regular aerobic exercises, certain areas in the brain, including the hippocampus and temporal lobes, increased in size. These areas are responsible for memory, learning, processing emotions, and more.
The Effects of Daily Exercise on the Brain
Exercise increases memory and influences your ability to think, both directly and indirectly.
Direct ways include:
- Decreasing insulin resistance
- Decreasing inflammation
- Increasing the release of growth factor chemicals (These chemicals protect the health of brain cells and enhance the growth of new blood vessels in the brain.)
Indirect ways include:
- Improvement of mood and quality of sleep
- Reduction of stress and anxiety levels
- Prevention of cognitive impairment
Studies show that the areas of the brain responsible for memory and thinking (the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and medial temporal cortex) are larger in people who exercise regularly.
One study found that regular exercise of moderate intensity for six months or more increased the size of multiple brain areas.
Start Exercising Now
The question is: how much should you exercise to improve your memory?
Studies show that walking and doing aerobic workouts are the best forms of exercise to pump your heart. One hour of walking, twice a week, is moderate intensity exercise, according to research. You want to aim for this level of physical activity four to five days per week for the best results.
If you’re just starting out, start small. Depending on your health and physical capabilities, set a goal for ten minutes of activity and work your way up to a minimum of thirty minutes a day. If you can handle that, increase the intensity or time. You want to push yourself without over-exerting yourself.
If you don’t like walking, there are many other forms of moderate-intensity exercises, such as playing tennis, swimming, or squash. Household activities such as mopping the floor, vacuuming, and scrubbing are moderate intensity exercises, too. Anything that makes your heart rate increase and makes you sweat is the level of exertion you’re aiming for.
Exercise is important to your overall health, and daily exercise is good for your brain. Multiple studies over time show that physically active people have lower rates of age-related brain decline. The sooner you increase your physical activity, the healthier you’ll become.
For more on how exercise benefits your brain, watch this video: