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The Amazing Ability of Exercise to Improve Your Memory

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Recent study shows how physical activity increases your memory power

Would you like a prescription that improves your memory power but is free of charge?

Side effects may include an increased heart rate, perspiration, increased sensitivity to insulin, decreased inflammation, and strengthened ability to grow new brain cells. You might also experience improvements in mood and sleep and a reduction in stress and anxiety.

All of these health benefits have been proven to be a direct result of exercise. Recently, a study conducted by the Brigham Young University in Utah (BYU) found that regular exercise was able to protect the brain from the negative effect of chronic stress. The hippocampus, where our brain builds and holds memories, became stronger with regular exercise.1

Exercise is one of the many ways to boost your memory and how it does so appears simpler than one may think. Exercise reduces the impact that stress has on our brains.

How Reducing Inflammation Improves Memory

In a healthy brain your brain cells are able to send messages along your synaptic neurons. When these messages are able to travel faster and stronger, your memories become stronger. 2

Inflammation or swelling, often caused by stress, slows down the strength of those messages. When you are running or dancing, your heart rate picks up and increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.

How Exercise Stimulates the Growth of New Blood Vessels and Brain Cells

When there is more blood flowing to your brain, it will stimulate growth in the size of your hippocampus, your site for memory and learning. These new blood vessels and brain cells that are growing in your brain can help to increase your memory storage ability. 3

Why A Better Mood Gives You Better Memory Power

Ongoing depression will negatively impact your brain’s ability to function. Getting out for a walk around the block on a sunny day can improve how your brain responds to the feel good hormones such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Prescribed anti-depressants often aim to improve serotonin levels but exercise is free and has limited side effects! An added benefit is that exercise produces more endorphins. This results in a lower sense of pain and an increase in positive feelings and memories.4

Memory retrieval is tied to our emotions. Think back to how strong your memories are of your wedding day, the birth of a child or a favorite holiday. When our mood improves, our memories become stronger.

How Exercise Improves Sleep and Memory Storage
Sleep is more than just a nightly habit. When you have a good night of sleep, your brain can prune the unneeded connections in your brain and strengthen the ones you are using. While you are snoozing, your brain is also going through the important job of repairing damaged cells. Quality sleep drastically improves your mental function and memory power.5

Although it may sound counter-productive, the more energy you spend during exercise the better your sleep will be. Exercise helps your body to enter a deeper and more restorative level of sleep. You are also able to fall asleep quicker. More exercise gives you better sleep which improves your memory power.

How Exercise Counters the Effect of Anxiety and Stress

Generalized anxiety, an overall sense of fear and uneasiness, can wreak havoc on your brain. Anxiety prevents your brain and your body from being able to rest, instead you always feel an underlying sense of worry and dread. This constant stress on your brain will weaken your ability to learn and to keep new information.

The BYU study found that just 3 days of chronic stress lead to a decrease in the effectiveness of the synapses. The brain’s messages weren’t going through!6

Exercise is nature’s remedy for relieving anxiety and improving your brain’s function. Research showed that when stress was paired with exercise, the brain was no longer negatively impacted.

Regular exercise helped the brain to continue to build new synapses and send new messages. These new messages continue to keep the brain strong and build more memory storage.

The Amount of Exercise Needed to Improve Your Memory

How much exercise is enough to improve your memory? It doesn’t have to be hours each day! Any amount of exercise will provide an improvement to your overall health and memory. To get the best results try to aim for 150 minutes a week. That is just over 20 minutes a day. If that sounds too hard, try to start with 5 minutes of moderately intense exercise. Anything that gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing.7  

Exercise is not meant to be a form of torture! Find something that you enjoy and the benefits will be even greater. A brisk walk with a loved one while you chat about your day. A game of tag with a grandchild. Inventing a new dance move to some lively music while you clean the kitchen.

Or setting up a date with a friend or family member to go swimming, play tennis or squash.

Even your daily chores can be an opportunity to get your heart rate going such as mopping the floor, raking leaves, or digging in the garden.

So if you’re looking for new how to improve your memory power, exercise. It can be fun and social! While you are focusing on the present moment and enjoying what you are doing, your brain and body are busy improving your brain health!

Sources:

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180214093823.htm
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/21/well/move/how-exercise-may-help-the-memory-grow-stronger.html
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6075740_Exercise_Builds_Brain_Health_Key_Roles_of_Growth_Factor_Cascades_and_Inflammation
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23630504
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25596964/
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/25/meet-the-man-living-with-alzheimers-who-climbs-the-same-mountain-every-day
  7. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1755296611000317
About The Author

Crystal Jo

Crystal Jo is a Registered Nurse who is passionate about helping older adults live happy, healthy lives at home. As a freelance writer, she enjoys educating and inspiring seniors, and those who love them, to choose a healthy life.

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