The benefits of physical activity go far beyond just weight loss and muscle gain, or disease prevention. According to Heidi Godman, Executive Editor of the Harvard Health Letter, exercise can also protect memory and thinking skills.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia conducted a study analyzing the effects different forms of exercise have on the brain. The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for learning and verbal memory. While weight lifting and balancing exercises did not provide significant results, they determined that partaking in aerobic exercise regularly increases the size of the hippocampus.
Exercise the Brain!
These are some of the benefits aerobic exercise can provide for memory and thinking:
- Reduced insulin resistance and inflammation
- Stimulated brain cell growth
- Improved mood and sleep
- Reduced stress and anxiety
Jog your Memory
In another study at Cambridge University, neuroscientists saw that running stimulated the growth of grey matter in the brain, as well as brain cells responsible for memory and learning. They believe that the increased blood flow and hormone production during aerobic exercise is responsible for this reaction. For example the release of cortisol helps with stress reduction. After teaming up with colleagues at the US National Institute on Aging, they tested their hypothesis on two groups of mice using a memory test. One group had access to a running wheel, while the control group did not. The scores of the running mice nearly doubled those of the sedentary group which grew increasingly worse over time.
Written by GUADS intern Joe with contributions from health.harvard.edu.