Stay Sharp as You Age With This One, Simple Trick

How can you increase blood flow to the brain? Exercise!

Stay Sharp as You Age With This One, Simple Trick

In the movie Pitch Perfect, Aubrey, the captain of the acapella group known as the Barden Bellas, decides they all need to work on their cardio and she has them run laps around the gym. She comes over to one of the Bellas, Amy, to ask why she’s lying on her side. “I’m doing horizontal running,” Amy responds, slowly cycling her legs in the air.

If you’re a horizontal runner like Amy, it’s time to get vertical and start walking, cycling and, yes, doing more effective horizontal exercises like swimming. Why? They can boost your chances of a sharper mind as you age.

Scientists used to think people lost cognitive ability because their brain’s nerve cells died off with age, but it turns out that’s not the case. Researchers looked at the brains of 28 people from 14- to 79-years-old and found older folks made as many new neurons in the brain regions associated with memory as younger people but had less oxygen-delivering blood flow to these areas. The researchers suggest lack of oxygen could cause age-associated cognition problems.

So, how do you increase blood flow to your brain? Try aiming for 10,000 steps daily or the equivalent and get at least 150 minutes of added aerobic exercise weekly. Also try yogic deep breathing: Expand your lungs outward as you inhale for a count of four and exhale slowly from the bottom of your lungs first (your belly will sink in) for a count of eight. And be sure to track your steps and more with Sharecare, available for iOS and Android.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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