Memory Loss Prevention & Exercise

By: Rosemary Wisniewski           Posted on: 06.13.2016

I started working on this blog about the connection between exercise and preventing memory loss/cognitive impairment several weeks ago. My self-imposed deadline passed last week. Those usual culprits: procrastination, interruptions and distractions, are partially to blame. And so is forgetfulness. I forgot where I had put my print outs, I forgot to move the mouse when I moved the computer. When I wrote my first draft I forgot to include that important information; so I had to rewrite several paragraphs.

Forgetfulness makes my life difficult. Now as my 55th birthday approaches, I often fear it’s going to get worse.

I’m not alone. A Harvard Medical School special health report on improving memory and understanding age-related memory loss noted that declining thinking and memory skills are among the top fears people have as they age.

However, after researching this topic, I’m breathing easier. I enjoy exercising and not long ago vowed to make it a priority in my life. Regular, moderately intense exercise can strengthen the heart and lungs, improving the supply of oxygen throughout the body, including the brain. It can also maintain healthy blood pressure and weight, improve energy, lift mood, lower stress and anxiety, and keep the heart healthy, all of which can reduce the risk of diseases that can damage the brain.

But exercise also increases chemicals that protect the brain. It stimulates brain regions that are involved in memory function to release chemicals and rewire memory circuits so they work better. Did you know that if we start exercising at a young age we can actually reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s?!

If you’re nearing your 40s, have never had an active lifestyle, and are concerned about memory and cognitive problems as you age, it’s time to start exercising. If you’re a senior citizen already, one who has always been active or one who has had a pretty sedentary lifestyle, go lace up those sneakers. It may be an overused cliché, but it is never too late.  Not only is there evidence that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of cognitive decline, and possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, but studies suggest physical exercise can actually improve cognition in healthy older adults.

So, how much exercise do we need to keep our minds as well as our bodies healthy as we age? Standard recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week. But as I see it, any movement is better than none- so get moving and get those brain cells churning!

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