What Can Exercise Do for Your Brain? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 14, 2016

What Can Exercise Do for Your Brain?

Incorporating a workout into your daily
routine can help you retain information better.

You know that exercise is good for you. But, did you know that exercise can do more than flatten your abs and increase your serotonin?

New research shows that exercise also can boost your long-term memory and enhance your ability to learn. Of course, activities such as brain teasers and crossword puzzles are great ways to support mental agility, but exercise seems to boost your brainpower.

That doesn’t mean you have to learn French on a treadmill (but please don’t let us stop you). Rather, it means that exercise a few hours after you study, read, take a test, or prep for a big meeting can help you remember what you’re trying to learn. The researchers say that long-term memory is influenced by the “processes that take place in the hours and days afterward when new information is stabilized and integrated into your brain.”

In other words, incorporating a workout into your daily routine can help you retain information better.

Finding the right balance is necessarily easy. Too intense of a workout may exhaust your brain, causing you to forget what you learned. On the other hand, if you don’t exert enough energy then you won’t release the chemicals your brain needs in order to learn. A slow, short walk, for instance, won’t do much for you, whereas a brisk walk, jog, or bike ride will enhance your brain activity.  

So, what’s the best plan for you? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Figuring out the right amount of exercise for your unique build, height, weight and sex can be challenging. You can start with the largely accepted recommendation of getting approximately 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or roughly half an hour of exercise five days a week. From there, start to consider when you work out each day – maybe a middle of the day workout break will provide the best brain boost. Or perhaps for your personal schedule, an end-of-day workout will have the biggest impact.

There are other ways in which being physically active can benefit your brain. A consistent physical fitness routine could improve your mood and sleeping habits, and reduce stress or anxiety. These problems frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment, and may distract you from learning or memorizing important details.

So, if you’ve been putting off getting in shape, or find exercise to be too time-consuming in your busy schedule, consider this one more reason to shake off the doldrums and get active. The increased brainpower may have a positive impact on all aspects of your life.

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