Improving Brain Function with Exercise

Exercise is good for the heart and research shows that it can reduce the risk of dementia and slow the condition’s progression once it starts.

brain benefits of exerciseA study out of Mayo Clinic published this month in Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows how important aerobic exercise is in preserving cognitive abilities. Researchers concluded that it should not be overlooked as an important therapy against dementia.

Aerobic exercise is any physical activity that raises the heart rate and increases the body’s need for oxygen, such as:

  • Walking
  • Gym Workouts
  • Shoveling Snow
  • Raking Leaves

“We culled through all the scientific literature we could find on the subject of exercise and cognition, including animal studies and observational studies, reviewing over 1,600 papers, with 130 bearing directly on this issue. We attempted to put together a balanced view of the subject,” says J. Eric Ahlskog, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic. “We concluded that you can make a very compelling argument for exercise as a disease-modifying strategy to prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment, and for favorably modifying these processes once they have developed.”

Extensive research has been done using brain imaging to show objective evidence proving the positive effects of exercise on human brain integrity. And animal studies have conclusively shown that exercise generates trophic factors that improve brain functioning. Further research has shown how exercise increases neuroplasticity in the brain, increasing the rate of regeneration of cells and how fast the brain fires.

The researchers recommend exercise to anyone but especially those with a history of cognitive disease in their family.

“Whether addressing our patients in primary care or neurology clinics, we should continue to encourage exercise for not only general health, but also cognitive health,” Dr. Ahlskog says.

Diet plays a large role in brain health and one supplement that has been clinically proven to improve cognitive function is Omega-3. With a host of other benefits, Omega-3 is one supplement no diet should be without.


Mayo Clinic. “Aerobic exercise may reduce the risk of dementia, researchers say.” ScienceDaily, 7 Sep. 2011. Web. 8 Sep. 2011.

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