The best exercise for brain health

Exercise improves the state of your brain and can protect your memory as you age. And there’s a certain type of exercise that is perfectly suited to help you maintain optimal brain power, say researchers at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal in Canada.

The Canadian study analyzed various exercise programs for their influence on memory and cognitive function in people between the ages of 62 and 84. While two-thirds of the people in the study performed intense aerobic exercise and weight lifting routines, the other third merely played ball games or did other activities that improved their balance, flexibility and coordination.

The researchers found that there was no single exercise that was best for the brain. Instead the type of exercise that produces the most benefits is simply whatever you are willing to do on a consistent basis. It doesn’t have to be very strenuous or designed to make you super-fit.

You just have to get up and move around most days of the week.

“For a long time, it was believed that only aerobic exercise could improve executive (brain) functions. More recently, science has shown that strength-training also leads to positive results,” says researcher Nicolas Berryman.

Berryman’s study shows that even if you don’t want to go to the gym and lift weights, or strap on running shoes and jog, you can still find simple activities that will help keep your memory stronger as you age.

“Our new findings suggest that structured activities that aim to improve gross motor skills can also improve executive functions, which decline as we age,” Berryman says. “I would like seniors to remember that they have the power to improve their physical and cognitive health at any age and that they have many avenues to reach this goal.”

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.