Exercise for Brain Health

Valerie PatmintraBrain Health

Woman stretching before going for a run

Being physically active through regular exercise, household chores or other activities has many benefits; including helping maintain your cognitive health. Many recent studies have linked ongoing physical activity with benefits for the brain. In fact, exercise has been linked to stimulating the brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are vital to cognitive health, as well as increasing the size of a brain structure important to memory and learning and improving spatial memory.

Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is thought to be more beneficial to cognitive health than non-aerobic stretching and toning exercise. Research is ongoing, but aiming to move for about 30 minutes on most days is shown to have many benefits. 

According to McKnight Brain Research Foundation Trustee, Dr. Richard Isaacson: “Aim to exercise at least three or four times a week for a minimum total of 150 minutes, with a mix of aerobic workouts and resistance/weight training. The cardio from the aerobic exercise (especially high-intensity interval training) helps you burn fat, while the weight training builds muscle, which boosts your metabolism.”

Based on recent evidence, Dr. Isaacson believes that personally tailored exercise programs — based on a person’s percent body fat, percent lean muscle mass, vascular/metabolic risk factors, and cognitive function — may be the most powerful driver of change.

If you haven’t been active, but are ready to start an exercise program, talk to your healthcare provider about the best types of exercise for you. 

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