Fact Check: Does Exercise Improve Brain Fitness as You Age?

Does exercise improve cognitive abilities? (Image via Pexels/Oluremi Adebayo)
Does exercise improve cognitive abilities? (Image via Pexels/Oluremi Adebayo)
Natalie P.

It’s not uncommon to hear that regular fitness levels even sharpen your brain power. Most are left wondering how that works; activities on the outside helping something on the inside?

Well, it’s true. Just as physical exercise improves various functions within the body (regulating blood sugar levels, improving cardiovascular function, etc.), it also helps brain function.

Exercise is said to improve cognitive health, i.e., our ability to think, solve problems, and process new information. It facilitates the release of hormones to create an environment for the growth of new brain cells. It also improves the connections between cells within various parts of the brain. This helps with being sharper and improving focus.

Regular exercise also boosts cardiovascular function, which allows for more oxygen to be supplied to the brain. This enhances neuromuscular function, making it easier for the brain to send nerve signals through the body.

Adequate oxygen supply also ensures the brain tissues do not stagnate, leading to chronic cerebral conditions and slower processing of information. This can also affect the part of the brain associated with memory.

Among the chemicals released during exercise are dopamine and endorphins, which are often called the “feel-good” chemicals. Yes, that is what is often called the “runner’s high.” This helps release stress and negativity, which can help with depression and anxiety in the long run.

Regular exercise also promotes better sleep, along with improved mood and reduced stress. This gives the brain plenty of rest to renew its cells and keep itself healthy.

How much activity is required for optimal brain function?

150 minutes of exercise a week is recommended. Image via Pexels/Mikhail Nilov
150 minutes of exercise a week is recommended. Image via Pexels/Mikhail Nilov

Having said that, nobody has to go to extremes. Even the simplest routines and activities are good enough to keep the body and brain going.

Ideally, about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is recommended per week to stay fit and active. This can be divided into 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week. Seems very doable!

If you’re new to exercise, you can start with some walking or any other form of aerobic exercise a few days in the week. After that, begin with some light resistance training. As you progress through your program, you may increase the intensity or duration of these exercises.

It’s also a good idea to improve the amount of non-exercise activity you do in a day. This could include climbing stairs, walking to the grocery store, or taking breaks to walk around while at work. They may seem like simple tasks, but they help in big ways.

So, whatever fitness regimen you choose, ensure that it is one you enjoy and look forward to doing, as this is what will help you stick to the activity.

Remember, exercise isn’t just about physical health; it’s a huge factor in improved mental health and cognitive function as well. Looking good is just a bonus to feeling great and having a clear mind. And getting there is as simple as exercising!

live poll LIVE POLL

Q. How often do you exercise?

Every day!

Few times a week.

39 votes so far

Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh


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