AARP Eye Center
Getting your sweat on with a good workout not only benefits your muscles and heart — it does good things for your brain. Research shows that regular physical activity can contribute to better cognition and memory: Exercises like swimming, biking and strenuous sports confer a 30 to 40 percent reduction in dementia risk compared with low levels of activity.
A brain region called the hippocampus helps us form memories. That area deep in the brain typically starts to shrink as people age, eventually leading to memory loss. But working out, even brisk walking, may stop or even reverse the process, rolling back the clock one or two years.
Exercise aids the brain in several ways. It triggers the body to release growth factors that help nerve cells in the hippocampus grow, making the brain more resilient to aging. Physical activity also fuels the production of the “feel-good” brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, which counteract the negative effects of stress hormones and depressive moods.
Over time, regular exercise may result in the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, bringing in more nutrients and oxygen. Routine workouts also improve inflammatory conditions such as hypertension and diabetes that can damage the brain and cardiovascular system.
The good news? You don’t need to run marathons or lift heavy dumbbells to reap these brain benefits. Simple exercises, including dancing and even energetic housework, have been shown to positively affect the brain.
To learn more about your brain on exercise, read this article in Staying Sharp.
This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.