How can exercise help improve my memory?

Majid Fotuhi, MD
Physical exercise, especially dancing, is a great way to grow your brain stronger, as it activates different areas of your brain at the same time. Watch neurologist Majid Fotuhi, MD/PhD, explain why dancing is an ideal exercise for boosting memory.

A recent study showed that a 20-minute walk every day is all the extra activity it took to help counter faltering memories in a group of people over age 50.

After just six months of doing an extra 20 minutes of exercise daily (on top of the physical activity done normally), a group of adults experiencing slight losses in memory and verbal fluency saw improvements. More good news: The exercise didn't have to be terribly taxing. Not only did walking work but so did swimming and ballroom dancing. Even better, the improvements persisted for 12 months after the study ended, and some benefits lasted up to 18 months. The research suggests that exercise may help delay Alzheimer's in at-risk adults -- people who have mild cognitive decline.

Although it's yet not fully understood how staying active improves the mind, it may be that the boost in blood flow nourishes brain tissue and, by extension, stimulates the generation of new neurons, synapses, and blood vessels. Exercise can also relieve stress and enhance your mood.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Performing physical activities (particularly when you do all three kinds: general physical activity, stretching and flexibility, and stamina building) helps improve long-term memory and brain function. This is logical, as memory and all cognitive functions depend on the health of the arteries. Not surprisingly, physical activity helps prevent the arterial aging that contributes to the early onset of Alzheimer's disease, as does playing "mind" games, games that make your mind work.
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Exercise your mind by exercising your body. People who exercise briefly each day will be more alert and quicker mentally. Exercise results in improved strength, flexibility, endurance and cardiovascular health. It can also improve energy, circulation and mood. For people with memory difficulties, exercise can impart a sense of meaning or purpose and create a calming effect. Chances are, if you're exercising regularly, you'll sleep better too -- another key to keeping your mental powers in shape.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.