As if there weren’t enough reasons to make health and fitness a priority in your life, here’s another one: Your brain will thank you in the future.
According to this article, many experts now believe dementia can be prevented or delayed, even for those with a genetic predisposition. Some Alzheimer’s risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, and low physical activity can be reduced or avoided with proper exercise. The article provides 10 ways to boost your brain health, and not surprisingly, the first two items on the list have to do with exercise:
#1. Get moving.
“If you do only one thing to keep your brain young, exercise,” says Art Kramer, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Illinois. Physically active people tend to have higher levels of cognition and memory, and lower rates of dementia. The hippocampus–the region of brain associated with memory–shrinks with age, but research shows that exercise actually helps reverse this process.
#2. Pump some iron.
The University of British Columbia at Vancouver found that older women who participated in a weight-training program for a year performed better on tests of cognitive function than women who did balance and toning exercises instead.
“Resistance training may increase the levels of growth factors in the brain such as IGF1, which nourish and protect nerve cells,” says Teresa Liu-Ambrose, head of the university’s Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory.
Other items on the list include learning something new, interacting with friends, and reducing stress, all of which can all be achieved through exercise. Trying a new sport or activity will challenge your brain as well as your body. Working out with a friend makes exercise more enjoyable and provides accountability when life gets busy and you’re tempted to skip your workout. And time after time, studies have shown that exercise helps reduce stress levels.
So whatever else you do to keep your mind sharp, don’t forget the importance of staying physically active.