Exercise and Memory
Studies show that regular exercise, aerobic and strengthening exercises, can give memory a boost. This is true for people of all ages.
Exercise and the Brain
Generally, what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. Exercise increases heart rate, requiring an increase in oxygen, which improves oxygen flow to the brain. This aids in mending damaged brain cells and increases the size of the hippocampus in the brain. The hippocampus is a small organ in the brain that is associated mainly with forming, organizing and storing memories – particularly long-term memory. Exercise also stimulates the release of mood enhancing hormones, providing a antidepressant-like effect.
Exercise also improves cognition, the process of sensory information including attention, memory and reasoning. Benefits from regular exercise include improved attention to detail, ability to switch tasks, general working memory, and increased academic achievement. It helps our brain focus on tasks, allows us to make better decisions and improves productivity.
Strengthening Exercises and the Brain
While much of the research connecting exercise and brain health focuses on aerobic activity, studies show that resistance exercise can also affect memory for the better. Exercises that include coordination (including resistance and lifting weights) and cardiovascular endurance have been shown to have the greatest influence on physical and mental health.
K-State Research and Extension Programs
Stay Strong Stay Healthy (SSSH) is an 8-week strength training program designed to improve strength, flexibility and balance in older adults. In partnership with the University of Missouri Extension, K-State Research and Extension launched this program in January 2016. Check with your local Extension Office to see if classes are being offered in your community.
This program includes presentations on memory and learning, memory strategies, nutrition, medications, medical conditions, and exercise for the body and mind. Contact your local Extension Office for more information.