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Menopause Corner
Menopause Corner

Wendy Hoffman blogs about menopause and women's health—particularly focusing on how diet and nutrition can positively affect a woman's life around the age of menopause.

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Do Fitter Bodies Equal Fitter Brains?

Ok. This will be my third consecutive blogpost to talk about the benefits of exercise. I’m sorry, but I just can’t help it. Every week I seem to come across new articles and compelling research that shed a brighter light on the benefits of exercise. This week I found several articles that educated me about the connection between fitness and brain health. Yes, exercise isn’t only good for weight management, blood pressure, metabolic problems, bones, joint and heart health. (I could keep going) It also keeps your brain in shape. Apparently, the fitter your body, the fitter your brain and this goes for people of all ages.

What does a fit brain really mean? Think about the changes you’ve noticed in yourself as you’ve gotten older. Do you often forget the title of a book you’ve recently read (or be honest, that you’re reading right now?) Do you find it hard to concentrate or stay focused on a task? Remember what it was that you were looking for? Do you experience “tip of the tongue” lapses? (You know the answer, but it takes a while for it to get dislodged from your brain).

I’ve experienced all of these things and so have many of my friends. We laugh about our “senior moments,” but it’s dark humor. We wonder aloud if we’re losing our marbles. I know that I feel energized after exercising, but if more or certain kinds of physical activity can delay brain aging, them I’m certainly going to take exercise more seriously.

According to Dr. Pascale Michelon, Founder and Director of The Memory Practice in St. Louis., the scientific research shows that staying physically fit can delay brain aging. She writes a very informative blog where you can keep up with the latest research and ideas for protecting your brain from age-related dementia.

In one of her articles, she cites a recent study that followed 12 healthy individuals between 50 and 89 years of age. Their performance on treadmill tests served as indicators of their physical fitness, and brain scans allowed researchers to evaluate gray matter volume changes associated with age.

Regular Exercise May be Key in Preserving the Brain

They found that the poorer the performance on the physical fitness tests, the bigger the age-related changes in the brain. In addition individuals who had high physical fitness scores were also those who had the better performance on measures of memory, executive function and processing speed.

Even though the intensity of the physical activity matters, even everyday physical activities like cooking and gardening can be beneficial to the brain, said Dr. Michelon.

“Physical exercise triggers the growth of both brain cells and new connections between them,” even for those who might not be able to participate in formal exercise.

How much exercise is needed to bulk up your brain muscle? Dr. Michelon recommends at least 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise, three days a week, as that has been shown to have a positive impact on brain functions. “It doesn’t have to be strenuous. Walking has been shown to have positive effects too.”

Does this or any “exercise is good for you” article motivate you to exercise with more commitment? Find me on Twitter (@menopauseblog) and tell me what, if anything, has convinced you to get moving.

Wendy Hoffman writes about women’s health at www.menopausetheblog.com.

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About the Author

Wendy writes about women's health in midlife.