Denver Wellness Tips: Healthy Body, Healthy Brain

Exercising regularly is not only one of the best things you can do for your body, but one of the best things you can do for your brain. Many studies have shown that you can get an immediate memory boost from physical activity and slow down the effects of cognitive impairments. But don’t wait until you notice memory loss to begin working out your brain. Learn how your mind can be positively impacted by different types of exercises and make the most of these benefits now.

A study of special memory and exercise done by the Psychobiology and Exercise Research Center, CECPE (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22155655) in São Paulo, Brazil looked at the impacts of different exercises on memory. In this study, lab rats either participated in aerobic exercise or strength training. After six weeks, both groups of animals scored better on memory tests than before they had trained, but they showed different results. The group of runners’ shoed increased levels of a protein in their brains that is known as BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This protein is known to support the health of existing neurons and promote the creation of new brain cells. The weight-lifters did not show this same increase, but had higher levels of an insulinlike growth factor in their brains and blood, a substance known for promoting cell growth and helping new neurons survive.

This result was later shown in a human study done by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23509628). Dozens of women ages 70 to 80 with mild cognitive impairments and assigned them a specific, supervised exercise – some lifted weights twice a week, some walked briskly, and some skipped endurance training and only stretched and tones. After six months, women in the toning group scored worse on memory tests than before they started, while the women who exercised performed better on all tests, with differences. Women who had walked improved their verbal memory more than the weight lifters, but they both improved their spatial memory equally. Do you know how to identify heart attack symptoms in women?

 How to use this Information

Based on these studies, it is clear that endurance exercise has a positive impact on memory, but that impact can be different depending on the type of exercise performed. Therefore, you should make sure to have a well-balanced exercise program that incorporates both aerobic and strength-training to receive the full memory benefits of physical activity. The Medical Fitness Gym at South Denver Cardiology is a great place for you to begin working on an exercise program with our Health Coaches. We offer many different programs including cardiovascular training, core training, resistance training, and flexibility. Give us a call at 303-744-1065 or view our upcoming fitness classes to get started today, and share your own experiences with exercise and memory via the comments below.