Improving Cognitive Fitness with Exercise

We’ve all heard about the benefits of getting regular exercise (at least 150 hours a month of moderate
aerobic physical activity) for our heart health. But did you also know you are enhancing your cognitive
fitness with every step you take?

Cognitive fitness

Exercise improves memory, cognitive skills, reduces stress, enhances your mood and can help to prevent
dementia.  It can also stimulate various brain chemicals that make you feel happier, more relaxed and
less anxious.  

Physical exercise is beneficial for maintaining brain health, especially those at risk for dementia and
Alzheimer’s disease.  There have been studies that show those who move more scored better on the
memory and thinking tests, and every increase in physical activity by one standard deviation was
associated with a 31% lower risk of dementia.  

Exercise helps the brain by promoting cardiovascular health, improving blood flow to the brain, reducing
inflammation and lowering levels of the stress hormone.  All of these factors can adversely affect

Exercise provides physical benefits to the brain too, such as increasing the thickness of the cerebral
cortex and improving integrity of your white matter, the nerve fibers that connect areas of the brain’s
nerve-cell-rich gray matter.  It also promotes neuroplasticity, your brain’s ability to form new neuro
connections and adapt throughout life.  One of the places that happens is in the hippocampus, which is
an important area for memory.

One recent study shows that you don’t have to go overboard with activity to benefit your brain. 
Achieving 7,500 steps or more daily is associated with higher total brain volume.  This is equivalent to
approximately 1.4 to 2.2 years less brain aging. Physical activity can slow the decline in some cases for
many years and help people function better, even in those who are at risk for development for
Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementias!

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