Almost everyone has the occasional memory problems, but as we age, those problems seem to get more frequent. You forget your keys. You forget where you parked. You forget to pay a bill on time. Or maybe you find yourself standing in the grocery aisle trying desperately to remember what you were supposed to pick up. We’ve all been there.
Granted that these aren’t on the level of the more hard-core, disease related memory problems (like forgetting what a key is for, or kind of car you drive) but if the incidents grow more frequent, they can sill interfere with your quality of life.
Studies show that these annoying lapses typically begin to become more frequent in your 40s or 50s and are due to a decline in brain activity. Kirk Erickson, at the University of Illinois, studies the relationship between memory and different life factors. According to Erickson, it still isn’t clear if memory loss becomes more frequent as we age due to loss of brain cells or due to decreased blood flow to the brain.
However, the best news that has come out of his work is that you can slow down and even reverse age-related memory loss through simple lifestyle changes. Just like all of our other organs, our brain needs our help protecting it from the ravages of time. Like the other organs, the brain benefits from a balanced diet and specific nutrition aids; however, Erickson’s strongest recommendation is to exercise to keep the neurons in our brain engaged.
Even in the early 1990s, scientists were able to show that exercise bulks up the brain. They were able to demonstrate how mice that were provided with running wheels produced more cells in the memory creation area of the brain than their sedentary counterparts.
Since then, numerous experiments have researched how exercise improves memory (from a molecular standpoint), what types of exercise and how much exercise yields the best results.
Different Type of Exercise Affect the Brain Differently
More recently, these studies have taken it even further. Most researchers agree that regular exercise, in general, can significantly improve memory. However, these studies now indicate that different types of exercise can benefit the brain in different ways.
In one study, they looked at the difference between running and weight lifting in rats. (Yeah, we had the same response… weight lifting rats? Turns out they strapped weights to the rat’s tails as they repeated climbed little ladders. Who knew?) At the end of 6 weeks, BOTH groups of rats scored higher on memory tests than they had prior to the start of their exercise regimen. However, the runner rats showed higher levels of a brain protein that supports existing neurons and new brain cell creation while the weight-lifting rats showed increased levels of a different protein — one that promotes cell division and growth.
But what does this test on rats have to do with us, you ask? Well, it turns out scientists at the University of British Columbia did a similar test with older women. They studied a group of older women with mild cognitive impairment (a risk factor in Alzheimer’s disease.) And it turns out that after the study, the women who exercised had better associative memory (the ability to recall things in context) than the other women.
The study involved women aged 70-80 with mild cognitive impairment and it looked at memory function necessary in day-to-day activities and how that type of memory was affected by different types of exercise. Over 6 months, these women were assigned supervised exercise in one of the following forms: Brisk walking, weight lifting, or stretching and toning.
At the end of the 6 months, they retook the memory tests. The women in the toning group scored worse than at the start of the study. The walkers and weight trainers scored better on the tests than they had at the beginning of the study, with the walkers showing greater gains on verbal testing than the weight trainers.
So what’s the bottom line?
All of these studies show that ANY exercise helps your brain and improves overall memory. But it also shows that different types of exercises have very different physiological effects on the brain and can facilitate varying improvements in different areas of the brain.
The most recent studies indicate that you need to balance both resistance and aerobic exercises to target the proteins that most benefit the areas of the brain associated with cognition.
The bottom line is that exercise today isn’t just about your physical appearance and having a perfect swimsuit body; it’s about a healthy mind, body and spirit!
AUTHORS: Sabrina & Tristan Truscott are the founders of Satori Method™. Developed over the last 30 years, their system of mind-body training helps you Awaken your Life-Force Energy to cultivate a Super-Charged Life!
I would never have thought that exercise helps improve memory. Very interesting. I just assumed things like brain-training and learning new things were the only ways to enhance your memory as you age. Now I have another reason to help motivate me to go for my morning walks. Thanks!
I think that exercising realistically is going to jumpstart the brain I’ve noticed that when I work out I just feel better as a person and the more that I work out the more I get the notion in my mind that increases my positivity. It seems to be something that drives me and pushes me forward and I enjoy that.
The fact is that we live an extraordinarily sedentary life and we watch way too much tv. Also, gadgets are a part of our life that don’t really contribute to a younger and sharper brains, so there is a lot to change to improve the way we think.
This is intriguing. I had never even had a clue as to the relation between exercise and the brain. But i suppose If you can control your physiology, you can relax, focus, and remember.
I learned a lot about the scientific background between exercise and brain health. I should start doing more exercise after reading this post. I never knew there was so much scientific information available.
This is interesting! I’ve never really thought about the brain being used when excersizing, but it makes sense. I mean, it is doing all of the work to move your bones after all, isn’t it? Interesting post!
Exercise being beneficial to brain health is completely incredible! I can see how the too relate- the increase of blood flow. In ancient times, the human race would live up to the age of 100 years old plus. Im pretty sure they weren’t just sitting on their front porch, playing on their tablets. What luxury we have in today’s world, yet these same luxuries are slowly shortening our abilities to be self productive. Im pretty sure if as we aged we just kept going even stronger than in our 20’s we would be able to tackle many different issues such as osteoporosis, brain disease, and Alzheimer’s to name a few. A child is not taught everything she know in two weeks and expected to remember the rest of her life these teachings. It’s the same concept with our bodies.
Things like this always make me wonder if maybe the old saying “use it or lose it” have more truth in them than face value. Everyone has heard of “brain training” and crossword puzzles, but I wonder if it goes much deeper than that. I think the mind and the body are more interconnected than most people give them credit for and your article beautiful highlights this fact.
This brings up a good point. We don’t think of our brains benefiting from a physical workout. Our brains need that stimulation as well as our bodies. My brain did enjoy reading about the weight lifting rats.
Man, our bodies are so amazingly complex and interlinked! I’m constantly surprised by the new things scientists are learning everyday. I’ve also read about brain health being related to diet. Apparently low-carb diets may be really helpful for healthy brain functions. Who would have thought! There’s so much we still don’t know about our bodies. It’s so interesting.
Well I obviously knew, that excercises only brings benefits to our brain and memory, but interesting to find out, how different exercises effect our brain in different ways. Exercises will definitely show their benefits when we get older, so workout and be happy not only now, but when you get old too!
Exercise physically to help our brain retain memory? Wow, who would of thought. I always knew exercising our brain was a good way to keep it in shape.This is a great article full of useful information that can help everyone.
This is pretty interesting. I always assumed memory loss was just a thing that happened. While I never thought about it, it doesn’t surprise me that exercise can help protect against memory loss, because it has so many other benefits.
There have been many studies that correlate exercise with brain health. I can see that – if you are moving, you are thinking about moving, thus making your brain work harder than it would by just sitting on the couch watching T.V.
It’s nice to know that exercising can help our brains. It makes me want to exercise even more knowing that I’m also improving brain health.
Those rats must be jacked! So aerobic activity is associated with retention of the memories as we grow older am I correct? and what specific effect does the increase and promotion of cell division ( due to resistance training) have in our brains? I think that aside from physical exercise, let’s not forget daily mental activities or games which are now available for free in most app stores.
Exercise certainly is a good way to keep your brain sharp. I know there have been many times when I haven’t been feeling too well but after exercise I feel much more awake and energetic (you wouldn’t expect that after using so much energy eh). I think a combination of mental and physical exercise is good for a healthy life.
What a great incentive to go to the gym! I never knew that different exercises produces different proteins for the brain! That is totally cool & good to know.
I am fast approaching my 40s and am very glad I heard about this now. I still have a good memory but when I think about my years at university and how much I was able to retain I wonder if I could even do it again. It is very reassuring to hear that folks with mild cognitive impairment were actually able to repair their brains with exercise. I definitely underestimated the power of exercise on the mind. I have always been active but this makes me want to do a bit more of a strict regimen with particular exercises.
Same here – I’ve always suspected that exercising comes with many additional benefits apart from those that we associate with improved physical fitness, because I usually have much more productive days when I’m regularly exercising in the evenings. I’m definitely eager to find out what else is in store.
Time and time again we’re being told the same thing, the same thing we’ve known about for AGES! Healthy body = healthy mind. It’s really important that in this increasingly sedentiary lifestyle we live where we sit at computers, on trains, on couches, all day, we find that time to get up, get out and get moving. Not just so we can say we exercise, but so that we are actually maintaining ourselves, emotionally as well as physcially and mentally. With the expansion of technology into our lives this has made it harder than ever before though…
This is interesting; I didn’t know exercise was something more than just physical. I just recently started working out again I hope this helps because I’m in my early 30’s well actually I turn 34 this August. I have issues with remembering stuff I had to create a system for myself to remember very important stuff like linking it to something else important I wouldn’t forget. Now I’m going to readjust my workout routine.
This is truly a very insightful article! While I have known that better concentration, attention and interest are associated with exercise, I have never known improved memory to be one of its benefits. It is amazing how a few tweaks in our daily schedules at a young age can improve our mental and physical health at an older age!
I never knew just how much we benefited from exercise. This article makes being both brains and beauty to a whole new level. Since it is now summer vacation for my younger siblings, I have been walking them to the park more frequently. Exercising to help your brain is a great incentive to keep on working out.
I enjoyed reading this and I must say it is good news to realize that there is something we can do to improve our memory lapses. I have been experiencing these and I see now that I need embark on a serious exercise routine. This will not only benefit my physical well being, but my mind as well. I need to improve my overall health and maintain it.
As I am still in my studies, I have been hesitant about ways to improve my general marks. This could actually be the small detail in my life that I am missing out on. I have always been doing my best but can never seem to reach that top mark. I often find myself forgetting small details of information that spoils my whole answer. I will definitely commit to trying exercise out!
Thanks for this article! I have big memory issues and to be honest I really cannot understand exactly why. I understand now that eventually that happens due to lack of exercise of the brain, so I am definitely starting to exercise my brains to see if I can improve my memory.
it is quite amazing what exercise can do for you. You will notice a difference in the shortest amount of time. Not only will you experience a general all over feeling of well being, but also find that you are far more alert and focused. I regard my brain as my greatest possession and so I love reading about anything that can make it better!
That’s interesting, specially because we humans are always worried what will happen to our brain as we age. I never thought to use brain exercises to keep me sharp, I might as well try now. The brain is the most important part of your body, it’s what gives us life, so we must protect it as much as we can. Thank you for this revealing article.
Brain exercises are fundamental, they are as important as exercising our body. So, in this sense, I believe it’s important is created on this topic, because vegetating in front of the TV is hardly the best way to exercise our brain and to have it healthy for our old age.
Not only is physical exercise good for the brain but mental exercise too. The key to keep the brain “fit” and neurons firing is to work out the brain by doing activities that stimulate it. Things like reading, puzzles, and even listening to music which uses 100% of the brain.
Yep. We live in a time where we pay a lot of attention to the body exercise, but many times we neglect what we need to do for our brain. The reality is that we need a health mind for a healthy body, a young mind for a young body.
I have always done brain exercises like logic puzzles and crosswords. However, I still worry about my memory. I have ADHD and forget things frequently now as it is. I often wonder if this makes me more susceptible to memory problems later in life. Does anyone know of any studies linking the two?
I love puzzle and physics games and also chess, so I think that I have a good thinking process, at the same time I suffer from memory issues too, I have a hard time focusing and memorizing many things, nothing too serious though.
Well I know that recently exercise is really becoming one of my best and only friends in the long fights against depression and anxiety and all the other health ailments that I have. I was not really aware that it had so much implications for our brain and out memory though too. That just makes it even better, and more important that I continue my routine and have it be a part of my life. Thank you for sharing this.
A healthy body for a healthy mind is not a new concept, but it’s fascinating to see this wisdom backed by scientific evidence. Another great reason to make sure that you remain active as grow older, and don’t use it as an excuse to start limiting physical activity – quite the reverse in fact! What’s the cheeky quote about us just being a slab of meat piloted by a brain? Well then, be a responsible pilot and make sure your slab of meat is in top condition!
Learning a new skill despite age has been shown to exercise the brain the most. That and learning a new language. I guess in learning how to play the guitar for example, it uses more of your brain than just solving crossword puzzles and playing Candy Crush. Yes. Old people play Candy Crush here to pass the time.