It’s a sad fact of life that, as you get older, your mind begins to deteriorate. You’re at a greater risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as simply having more difficulty with short term memory in general. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to stave off this deterioration and keep your mind sharp. One effective way of doing this is with regular physical exercise.
How Exercise Helps Your Mind
Studies have shown that people over the age of 50 who exercise regularly have less of a risk of dementia and similar mental ailments. In fact, even those who have already begun to exhibit signs of decline often show improvement after taking up regular physical activity.
So does that mean strength training, or cardio? Both, actually. Each has been found to have a different effect on the human mind. Using weights has been found to improve memory, as well as helping you to plan things in advance more effectively. Aerobics, however, help you with reading and learning, along with general logic and reasoning skills.
The question is, why is this? Why does keeping your body active have such a positive effect on your mind as well? There are several possibilities, but the most prevalent theory is this: exercising improves the flow of blood throughout your body, including to the brain.
This increase in blood, as well as the oxygen and nutrients that that blood brings, helps keep the brain stimulated and healthy. It may also provide your brain with a particular growth hormone that helps it create more neurons and form new connections, which are the cornerstone of a sharp and healthy mind.
Other Benefits of Exercise
Experts believe that even just 10 minutes of exercise can produce cognitive improvement. However, if you genuinely want to stay healthy, it’s recommended that you get an average of 150 minutes of exercise per week. That’s a little over 20 minutes every day, or 35 to 40 minutes, four times a week.
It doesn’t have to be rigorous or strenuous exercise, either. The overall point is simply to remain active. Even low impact activities, such as yoga or tai chi, can be effective in keeping the mind stimulated and staving off dementia, and can be helpful at any age.
Regular exercise can improve far more than just your mind, though. There are a variety of health benefits to staying active as you get older. It’s been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and a variety of other diseases. If you already have some sort of chronic illness or pain, the right exercise regime can help you to improve basic functionality, including strength and stamina. And the improvement of both body and mind can enable you to live independently, rather than requiring care.
Talk to your doctor and see what kind of physical activity they recommend for you. It’s very important not to embark upon any new health or fitness regime without first consulting a physician. They know your individual health history and will know what types of exercises will be better suited to you, and which, if any, might be harmful to you. They can help you craft an exercise program that fits your particular needs and is specifically tailored to your body, for maximum impact.
With a little bit of planning and a little bit of effort, you and your doctor can create an exercise plan that will keep you healthy in both body and mind for years to come.