We all know that we should exercise to improve our health, fitness level and to look good. We can sculpt our bodies, become stronger, fitter and look after our hearts. But what about something we can’t see but are using all the time – our memory?
Have you ever wondered if exercise can bring benefits here too and really enhance your mental capacity
? Want to know how and which type of exercise can enhance your mental capacity?
If so you’re in luck, this article is for you!
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Scientific research in this area
In 2007 research conducted on mice that exercised (i.e. running) demonstrated improved memory acquisition and retention. Researchers of this study suggest this is due the creation of new brain cells (i.e. neurogenesis). It was once thought that we are born with a set number of brain cells, but science has disproved this fallacy.
Can it happen in Humans?
A seminal study at the University of Illinois imaged the brains of older adults (both men and women over 50 yrs) and assessed their maximal oxygen uptake. Maximal oxygen uptake is a metric that determines a person’s aerobic capacity/fitness level. Participants in this research ranged from sedentary to very high fitness levels.
The results are astounding!
They found that high-fit adults over age 50
had much less age-related brain tissue shrinkage. There were distinct differences in the areas of the brain that are crucial to memory, learning and communication.
Bottom line was that those with high fitness levels displayed less brain degeneration
that is commonly associated with the aging process.
Another interesting study showed vigorous exercise enhances executive control functions, such as attention, organization and planning. A very interesting finding was that the combination of strength training and aerobic exercise showed a better effect
on brain function than aerobic training alone. Make sure to do your resistance training
New brain cells? Really?
We know from research that older adults are slower and less accurate on cognitive tests than younger people. On the other hand, older adults in great shape typically demonstrate no differences than young adults.
Another study in sedentary included healthy men and women aged 60 to 79 who were put on a cardio training program for six months. Results showed their brain volume increased
, which means more grey and white matter along with more connections formed between brain cells.
It seems that cardio exercise enhances the supply of a protein called BDNF
(brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which protects brain neurons and promotes the growth of new nerve cells and synapses that are related to learning and memory.
It is clear from scientific research that exercise can enhance our cognitive capacity. It is important to incorporate a sound program that includes both efficient cardio exercise and progressive resistance exercise. The combination of both types of exercise has shown a more striking effect than aerobic exercise only.
In addition, there are numerous other benefits to our bodies and functional capacity when we incorporate a progressive resistance exercise program into our fitness lifestyles!
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