3 Ways Exercise Improves Memory

Surprising facts about how a fitter body leads to a fitter mind

By Sydney Epstein—You already know that doing physical activity helps develop strong and healthy bones and muscles, but are you aware that exercise improves your memory as well?

How Exercise Improves Memory

Identifying the benefits of exercise on your memory is a great place to start, but further learning exactly how and why exercise benefits your memory will help you get the most out of your exercise regimens.

1. It can directly improve brain function
The hippocampus is the part of the brain that controls memory function. Research has concluded that physical activity helps improve the functioning and maintenance of the hippocampus, allowing it to function at its fullest potential.

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2. It can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
Exercise not only helps deliver blood and oxygen to your brain, but also helps create new, healthy brain cells as well.

According to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Performance and author of the upcoming book Boost Your Brain, exercise can directly reduce the levels of toxic amyloid protein which usually accumulate in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

One study showed that people with genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s who exercise regularly have amyloid levels similar to those who do not have such a genetic risk factor.

RELATED: 7 Steps to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease 

3. It can keep your brain young
When you engage in physical activity, your body increases its production of chemicals—such as BDNF proteins— that protect your brain from aging.

Studies have shown that elderly individuals who engage in physical activity are less likely to experience a decrease in brain function. 

Types of Exercises That Improve Memory
While most types of physical exercise can increase blood flow to the brain and improve your cognitive function, here’s a few physical activities that are especially beneficial to improving memory.

1. Resistance training
Along with helping your muscles stay strong, resistance training is also great for your brain. Resistance weight training can produce cells that nourish and replenish the brain cells relating to cognition and memory.

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2. Yoga
Yoga combines meditation and strength training, helping your body maintain its health in both the mind, body and spirit.

One of the main functions of practicing yoga is to reduce and alleviate stress. When your body experiences stress, your brain becomes full of cortisol, which impairs the memory component of the brain. Therefore, stress-reducing activities like yoga can minimize cortisol and keep your brain in a healthy state for memory functions.

RELATED: Health Benefits of Yoga

3. Walking & aerobic activity
Studies show that walking 30 to 40 minutes a day, 3 days a week improves brain growth in the hippocampus, the area directly associated with memory. The same resulting brain growth has been noted with other aerobic activity as well.

4. The takeaway
Engaging in physical activity and exercise not only contributes to a healthy lifestyle, but benefits your memory as well. So grab a dumbbell, yoga matt or running shoes and start exercising your body and improving your memory today!

This story was reviewed and approved by Dr. Majid Fotuhi, and originally appeared on Inspiyr.com