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Improve Your Memory With Exercise

By Paul Rothbart

One of the more irritating things people have to deal with is forgetfulness. It can hurt financially, as in forgetting to pay a bill, or socially, perhaps forgetting to call a friend. Having a household task slip your mind can result in an uncomfortable environment. Put simply, a good memory is a nice thing to have. Good health is also nice. Exercise is part of being physically healthy. If it helped memory, we could kill two birds with one stone. As it turns out, research has discovered that regular exercise does help improve memory. Here are some facts on this important discovery.

Effects of Exercise on the Brain

The effects of exercise on brain function and memory are both direct and indirect. Exercise directly benefits the brain by the way it reduces insulin resistance. This, coupled with reduction of inflammation and the stimulation of growth factor release, help boost the health of brain cells to create new blood vessels. It also helps newly created brain cells survive. This gives a boost to brain function, including memory. 

The indirect effect involves how exercise improves mood and sleep. It also tends to reduce stress and anxiety. All of these factors play a role in cognitive function. Numerous studies have found that people who exercise have a greater volume in the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex of the brain. These are the parts that control thinking and memory. 

How Much Exercise?

Although most studies have used walking as the exercise to test, any exercise will be beneficial with aerobic exercises being the most effective. Getting the heart pumping and stimulating the circulatory system is very good for the brain. One study found that a brisk one-hour walk twice a week for 120 minutes total weekly exercise proved effective in improving memory over a six-month period. Since 30 minutes of exercise five times per week is generally recommended for good health, that 150-minute total will more than suffice for better memory. If you haven't exercised in a while, start slow, five or 10 minutes per session two or three times per week, and gradually build. You don't have to walk. Choose an enjoyable form of aerobic exercise. Swimming, running, playing squash or racquetball -- even dancing -- are all very good.

Staying Motivated

Starting and maintaining a regular program of exercise requires discipline and can be difficult, especially with work and day to day chores. There are things that can help. Partner up with a friend and exercise together. It's often easier to stay motivated if you don't want to let down another person. A friend can hold you accountable and vice versa. Joining an exercise class also aids with accountability and motivates us by not wanting to waste the money spent on the class. Setting goals and charting progress can be very motivating as it's encouraging to accomplish those goals.

It's easy to forget things, especially as we age. In addition to helping keep the body healthy, regular exercise can improve memory. Keep active and things may stop slipping your mind. 

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Fitchburg, Wis.

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