Memory Fading? Hit the Gym

In addition to its myriad other benefits, it’s now scientifically supported that regular exercise helps your mind, the memory in particular. A Los Angeles Times story points to a growing number of studies that illustrate how “Movement appears to enhance memory, learning, attention, decision-making and multi-tasking, among other mental functions,” explains L.A. Times reporter Shari Roan. “It also may slow or even reverse age-related decline.”

It does all of this by 1) increasing oxygen flow to the brain 2) spurring new cell growth by building tiny blood cells and 3) boosting your supply of neurotransmitting chemicals. The evidence to support these claims is two-fold. One is that exercisers score higher on cognitive quizzes than sofa potatoes. The other is research that shows movement helps mice generate new nerve cells and connections. (The latter is a watershed observation; up until now, it was thought that nerve cells were non-renewing.)

“People don’t care about whether they’re a size 4 or a size 6 as they get older,” Henriette Van Praag, a staff scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies said in the article. “But they do care where their car keys are and whether they’ll have the ability to play their card games and enjoy life.” Hitting the treadmill (or the mall) even a little bit can help a lot: “Even moderate exercise in an elderly person can improve memory and attention by 15%.” Especially for elderly folks, experts suggest combining exercise with socializing—physically enhancing the brain while mentally stimulating it. “We don’t have to wait for a wonder drug,” says another doctor in the piece. “We know there are several things that are neuro-protective: diet, intellectual stimulation, and exercise. There is enough evidence to act on this.”

[via Los Angeles Times]



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