It's no secret that exercise, no matter what intensity level, is good for your body. But, did you know that exercise can improve your cognitive function? There are both physical and physiological benefits to the brain that can stem from exercise.
Exercise, walking in particular, is even thought to be helpful in preventing dementia or Alzheimer's! According to a study conducted by Colorado State University, walking was shown to improve the health of white matter in your brain, which is associated with memory.
White matter has been shown to degenerate in both healthy aging and dementia, so walking may be a way to slow down the degeneration of this memory tissue.
Everyone has different needs in their functional abilities and exercise abilities. However, even low impact activities make a difference! Here are some ideas of activities you can do to boost brain function.
1. Go for a jog/run - high impact
2. Go for a walk - low impact
3. Practice yoga - low impact
4. Skiing - high impact
5. Swimming - low impact
6. Water aerobics - low impact
7. Cycling - low impact
8. Dancing - low impact
9. Pilates - low impact
Even if the functional ability isn't there at the moment to do any of the above listed activities, we suggest keeping your mind active with puzzles, crosswords, word searches, brain teasers, etc.. This will help to keep your mind sharp! Even staying social has positive impacts on the brain. And, of course, physical therapy is a wonderful tool to use to help gain strength and mobility back for those who may be recovering from a decline in functional ability.
It's great to keep in mind, too, that even non-traditional forms of exercise can benefit your physical health and brain health. For example, raking leaves, shoveling snow, going up and down the stairs - moving your body in any way is better than doing nothing.
Consult your doctor before introducing a new type of physical activity into your life. But, when you do, you will be so glad to have moved your body! Not only does exercise release endorphins (the 'happy' chemical), but your brain will also thank you for the extra support and cognitive strength that you're contributing.
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