Brain Health – The Importance of Exercise

It is common knowledge that exercise is necessary for a healthy body, but what about for a healthy brain?  While we would love for our skeletal muscles, joints, and heart to stay strong and functioning well as we age, making sure our brain stays sharp is of the utmost importance, too.  Can exercise help us maintain or even improve our cognitive function as we battle Father Time?  And, if so, what do various studies suggest in terms of the type of exercise to do as well as the frequency, intensity, and duration?

As a personal trainer and Muscle Activation Techniques® practitioner in Schaumburg, IL, using exercise to help my clients stay physically healthy as they age is a fundamental aspect of my business.  I am well-aware of the potency of appropriate exercise when it comes to battling chronic illnesses and improving physical function and quality of life.  However, I was not well-versed in the impact that exercise can have on cognitive function.

It is not uncommon for clients to report that they feel mentally “sharper” after beginning to exercise on a regular basis.  But what does the literature have to say about this?  Is there information to validate these seemingly subjective claims?

Fortunately for all of us, the answer is yes.  Exercise does appear to have both a positive impact on performance during cognitive tasks as well as on the physical structure of the brain itself, as determined by functional MRI.  And there is a mounting pile of research to back it up.

What is even more interesting–at least to me–is that not only are these changes in cognitive function dependent on the types of activity that are done, but the positive brain impacts are dependent on the frequency, duration, and intensity of the exercise, as well.