Boost Your Memory With Exercise

By Kevin Jones

May 20, 2019   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Generally, I think it’s a good thing we can forget things.

Would you really want to remember all your homework and assignments from grade school with the same clarity as you would present-day events?

I certainly wouldn’t!

That’s why you should be tracking your workouts. That way, you won’t have to waste memory space on remembering what you are currently lifting or if you broke a personal record.

But when it comes to boosting your memory with exercise, the memories most of us are referring to are the really important ones. It includes memories with family, friends, and our general knowledge of how to live our day-to-day lives. Yet, diseases like Alzheimer’s threaten these memories.

Currently, there are around 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. That number is projected to rise to around 14 million by 2050. But you don’t have to accept that your memory will decline. Instead, you can protect your health and memory with exercise.

Develop Brain Volume With Regular Exercise

exercise and memory

As we age, our brains tend to shrink, losing not only its overall volume but also impairing some of its functionality. One critical area which can be affected is the hippocampus. It’s the area of our brain where long-term memories are stored and accessed.

As this area of the brain decreases in size, our memories become harder to reach. It becomes difficult to store new memories, too.

But with exercise, this grim, memory loss future doesn’t have to happen.

A particularly engaging study made a connection between exercise and an increase in brain volume, specifically with the hippocampus. In the study, the participants in the regular exercise group had an increase of 2% brain mass volume in their hippocampus. This means the effects of age-related brain volume loss was reversed for as much as 1-2 years worth of loss.

That means, if you set up regular exercise patterns, you can protect yourself from years of brain volume loss and keep your hippocampus healthy. In fact, you can even reverse some of your brain volume loss if it has occurred.

Acute Exercise Can Also Positively Impact Your Memory

Along with the great benefits of long-term exercise, you can positively impact your memory with just one short workout, according to memory researchers.

In a study on activating semantic memory in older adults, researchers studied to see if acute exercise had any impact on the memory. To clarify, acute exercise ranges from moderate-to-high intensity exercise that lasts under 45 minutes. Most HIIT workouts fall into this category. So if you have some favorite HIIT workouts, you may want to break them out.

Well, the participating older adults did experience greater memory activation, particularly their semantic memory. It’s the memory which contains your knowledge of your culture, basic world knowledge like how to hold a spoon, and all the simple things we tend to take for granted.

So, even if you haven’t quite mastered a regular routine of working out, even doing periodic, intense workouts can be helpful for your memory.

Create Greater Cognitive Function With Focused Workouts

You don’t have to just do aerobic workouts to boost your memory. A meta-analysis of multiple studies found that more meditative and focused exercises like Tai Chi can also help seniors improve their overall cognitive function.

It makes sense when you consider what slower, focused exercises offer. The person performing the exercise needs to not only engage their body but also their mind as they move through poses, patterns, and keep their movements mindful.

So, rather than doing a Soduku puzzle, maybe take up Tai Chi or yoga for brain engagement.

See Also: 10 Tips to Develop Both Sides of Your Brain

Blend Different Types of Exercises For Cognitive Benefits

exercise for memory boost

I often advocate for blending different types of exercise together, like how runners should lift heavy to support their muscles and joint while weightlifters should run to boost their cardiovascular health. And the same kind of balanced, blended workout effects can apply for memory-building workouts.

So, if you are determined to incorporate good, memory boosting workouts into your daily life, shoot for a mix of workouts. Say, dedicate 1 to 2 days to the more meditative and focused exercises. Then, maybe 3 to 4 days where you do longer aerobic workouts. Feel free to swap out one of the days with a more acute, anaerobic exercise program.

As you do things like work in simple posture exercises into your daily routine, be sure that you are also incorporating some of these other types of workouts. That way, you can boost your memory both in the short- and long-term.

See Also: 10 Brain Damaging Activities You Need To Stop Doing Now

Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones is a freelance writer, researcher and fitness instructor/consultant. Kevin has written extensively in the fitness and health industries, writing for companies such as NordicTrack & other influential health and wellness brands.

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