It’s no secret that exercise is recommended for everyone, no matter what shape they are in. It improves overall health, builds stamina, and gets your blood flowing smoothly through your veins to help fight off vascular disease. Why isn’t it also pointed out that your brain, being a muscle, can also benefit from physical exercise?
We also know that, as we age our body starts to show signs of wear (just like your car) and you have to do preventative maintenance on it in order to keep it running to full capacity. One big preventative maintenance tool is exercise.
Aging adults lose muscle tone, and their brains lose connectivity, which makes it harder to remember names and faces. The area in the brain, called the hippocampus, also shrinks — which leads to loss of memory and increased risk of dementia.
The hippocampus is found in the medial temporal lobe of the brain and is important for learning, memory and memorizing ability. A functioning hippocampus is necessary to form and process special memories as well as spatial memories, formed when a person gathers and processes information about their surroundings through their senses — sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
Research has found that adults who exercise have a larger hippocampus and increased temporal lobe volume. Even more important, you can increase your hippocampus size at any time by exercising, even if you waited to start exercising until later in life.
A Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study found that adults who participated in aerobic exercise training increased their hippocampus’ volume by 2%, and reversed age-related loss in volume by 1 to 2 years.
The conclusion indicates that participating in aerobic exercise, or any type of physical exercise that gets your heart rate elevated, can be effective at reversing the volume of the hippocampus lost through aging, and improve memory function. So it’s never too late to start an exercise regimen because it can both improve your health and increase brain size and function, and reverse age-related memory problems.
As a memory expert I am always looking at ways to help people improve their memory. I believe exercise is the natural way to do that, and probably one of the best memory techniques I can find that can reverse the age-related problems that come to all of us eventually.