There are countless reasons why people exercise; maybe it’s their passion, their profession, or they simply want to receive the many health benefits it offers, such as boosting mood, improving sleep, and preventing chronic illness.
There’s also another advantage of exercise that can especially benefit those experiencing age-related memory loss, or even just “brain fog.” Recent studies have suggested that regular exercise can produce positive effects on your brain health, even potentially preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
At WellAge Senior Living, we know the importance of both physical and cognitive wellness. Our senior living communities are focused on active and healthy aging, offering both fitness and mental stimulation opportunities for every resident. We’re taking a more in-depth look at the connection between physical activity and brain health and how you can reap the benefits of both!
Understanding the Link
Physical activity can stimulate cognitive function directly and indirectly. In a recent study done by the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise (anything that gets your heart pumping and sweat dripping) can increase the size of the hippocampus—a significant component of the brain associated with learning and forming new memories.
These findings join many others that suggest physical activity, whether aerobic or not, can lead to improved brain health and function and even the decline of memory loss and dementia. The evidence indicates that more blood and oxygen are flowing to your brain when you exercise, stimulating the brain regions involved in memory function.
There is also an indirect connection between physical activity and brain health. Exercise improves mood and energy and reduces feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety—all of which can contribute to cognitive impairment later in life.
Exercising Your Body and Brain
While any exercise is valuable for your body, certain ones are better for your brain. Here are some tips on maximizing brain health benefits during regular exercise.
Whether you’re riding a bike, going on a hike, or doing a yoga practice, exercising outside provides more mental stimulation than merely running on a treadmill or looking at a screen. There are more things to see, hear, and experience, which can fire neurons in the brain and increase focus and attention.
Exercise with Others
Exercising with other people, whether at the gym, at home, or outside, can give you motivation and accountability and can increase social activity and wellness. Also, socializing with others while exercising also reduces feelings of stress and depression.
Try Something New
For those who do exercise regularly, it can be easy to fall into a routine—we attend our weekly fitness class, run the same route daily, or lift the same weights routinely. While regular exercise is better than no exercise at all, it’s even more beneficial for physical and brain health to vary your activity. If you love running or cycling, try switching up your route every week; if you’re willing to be more adventurous, try learning something completely new, like ballroom dancing or fencing.
Physical activity is what you make it, so if your idea of exercising is forcing yourself to go to the gym and spend half an hour on a workout machine, it probably isn’t that fun or fulfilling. When you do that, your mind tends to wander and not focus on the task at hand, so while you may be getting a brief bicep workout, your brain is not getting a workout. To gain the true benefits of exercise, you should do something that you love and look forward to doing. Whether it’s hiking or skiing in the beautiful Colorado mountains, dancing, or Pilates, doing something that you enjoy will benefit both your body and mind.
Brain Health and Aging Well
WellAge Senior Living communities in Colorado, Nevada, and Oklahoma are committed to ensuring residents Live Well and Age Well. We know the importance of physical and mental activity at any age, and we create an environment where both are encouraged and supplied. Our senior living communities create an atmosphere of activity, engagement, and socialization—custom-tailored to each residents’ needs and preferences.
For more information on our senior living communities and lifestyle options, visit our website!