Exercise Can Boost Memory

We all hear the benefits of regular exercise, but there is one more benefit of regular exercise that you may wish to consider. Medical studies have shown that regular exercise may help to improve memory.

Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute conducted studies on mice, which resulted in the findings that running improves learning and memory. The study researchers also found that exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells in mice. Because mice cannot be asked whether their memory has improved, the study involved observation of activity.

“The study compared the memory of a group of mice made to exercise on a running wheel with mice who were not exercised regularly. Memory was determined by the speed at which the mice located a hidden platform in a water maze, used previously as a refuge to avoid swimming.” Mice that exercised on the running wheel regularly found the platform significantly faster and had more than twice the number of new brain cells in the brain tissue location that stores memory formation and learning. These regularly exercised mice also had newly formed brain cells responsible for memory storage. The mice who did not exercise took significantly longer to find the platform and were generally slower in the recognition of the direction in which to go.

As a result of this study, researchers found that new brain cells that store memory can be regenerated through regular exercise in adult mammals.

In other words, the benefits of regular exercise may help you remember someone’s name, where you left your keys or where you parked your car at the mall!

Exercise also helps our brain functions as we age. Studies have shown that physical and aerobic exercise training can lower the risk for developing some undesirable age-related changes in cognitive and brain functions and also help the brain maintain its ability to cover one function if another starts failing later in life.We are all aware that as we age, our brains age with us. Regular exercise not only helps our memory function, but there is also a significant relationship between physical activity, cognitive function, decreased occurrence of dementia and increased attention span.

There is now no doubt that regular exercise stimulates brain function. Regular exercise is basically defined by increasing the heart rate by 60 percent to 80 percent three to four days per week for at least 30-40 minutes. This does not mean that we need to jump up off the couch and run a marathon every day. Regular exercise will differ for many people.

If you are not someone who generally engages in any type of physical activity, you may wish to begin with one day per week for 30 minutes, or three days per week for 10 minutes a day walking to increase your heart rate. As you progress, your goal may be to increase your time to the “regular exerciser” standard.

If you have been sedentary for a long period of time, you will want to start out slow and go only a short distance. Many times you can just walk around your block. You can go to your nearest high school to walk the track when it’s not in use. Walking on an oval track no more than a quarter mile around should be perfect. Take your car to a park to walk. Parks are often flat and very peaceful. Make sure that no matter how far you get from your starting point, you are able to get back there.

Carrie White spent over 25 years in the fitness industry as a consultant, club owner, fitness trainer and attorney.