Can Exercise Improve Your Mind?

Decreased mental functioning is a normal part of aging. While each person has a different level of mental decline, you have several options for improving your brain and keeping your cognitive skills sharp. One of the easiest and healthiest options is regular exercise and especially aerobic exercise, which increases oxygen levels in your brain.

When your heart starts pumping more vigorously during aerobic exercise, highly oxygenated blood is forced quickly through your body. Over time, this leads to new capillaries being built throughout your body, including in your brain. As more of your brain cells get the oxygen and nutrients that they need, they become healthier and new brain connections are made. This can improve your cognition and memory.

However, regular aerobic exercise can do much more than this. It also raises levels of endorphins, which help you feel better overall. Not only can endorphins help blunt any physical pain you may have, but also they can elevate your mood. Two of the most important hormones that are raised during exercise are dopamine and serotonin.

The Numerous Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

Some researchers have actually suggested that regular aerobic exercise may be able to improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. A review of 19 previous studies that looked at over 1,000 seniors showed a clear link between exercise and decreased cognitive decline. The studies also confirmed that seniors should be exercising for at least 150 minutes each week using moderate to brisk exercise.

Some of the best aerobic exercises for seniors to consider include the following:

  • Walking or jogging
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Tennis
  • Dancing

Of course, seniors should be sure to take their physical health into account before they begin a new exercise program. You should always check with your doctor to ensure that your workouts will not harm your joints, heart or lungs. In addition, be sure to give your body time to rest between brisker exercises and balance your exercise program with workouts for strength and flexibility.

You are never too old to improve your mental functioning, your memory or your critical thinking skills. By engaging in regular exercise, you not only are keeping your bones and muscles strong but also are improving your brain functioning and improving your mood. Aerobic exercise does not have to feel exhausting. Instead, try a moderate walk several days per week or sign up for a water aerobics class at your local community center.
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