Posted on Nov 10, 2018, 10 p.m.
Shockingly only 2 out of every 10 American adults meet the recommended levels for physical activity, and 3 out of 10 children aged 6+ admit that they are not active at all despite mountains of evidence showing exercise to be a most powerful preventive and antidote at times for disability, illness in both mind and body.
Exercise has been shown by a huge body of evidence to be necessary to preserve muscle strength, keep the heart strong, maintain healthy body weight, and help stave off chronic diseases. According to Dr. Scott McGinnis of the Harvard Medical School exercise can boost thinking skills and has a lot of science behind it.
Exercise acts directly on the body by stimulating physiological changes in insulin resistance and inflammation along with encouraging production of growth factors; chemicals affect the growth of new blood vessels, abundance, survival, and overall health of new brain cells to boost memory and thinking skills directly and indirectly.
Memory and thinking are boosted by exercise indirectly via improving sleep, moods, and reducing anxiety and stress; problems in any of these areas frequently cause or can contribute to cognitive impairment.
Exercising acts on the brain directly itself; many studies suggest parts of the brain that control memory and thinking are larger in volume among those who exercise. Engaging in a program of moderate intensity exercises on a regular basis over a period of 6 months to a year has been associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.
Walking and other forms of aerobic exercise that get the heart pumping may yield similar benefits but it is not known if one exercise is better than another for brain health. Tai chi has been shown to enhance cognitive function in older adults, especially executive function that manages processes such as planning, working memory, attention, verbal reasoning, and problem solving which may be due to the practice involving slow, focused movements that require learning and memorizing new skills and movement patterns.
Establishing an exercise habit is highly recommended as several studies show that it takes 6 months to start reaping the cognitive benefits of exercise, once the habit is set it is more likely to continue exercising for the rest of your life. Dr. McGinnis recommends to set a goal of exercising at moderate intensity such as brisk walking for 150 minutes a week. This can be done by starting with a few minutes each day and increasing the amount by 5-10 minutes each week until reaching the goal. Make sure to warm up first, starting with cold muscles can lead to injury. It is equally important to cool down after working out to help prevent muscle cramps and dizziness while gradually slowing down breathing and heart rate.
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