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Exercise For Improved Memory

Woman exercising
We use the term “exercise” fairly loosely in some senses. It tends to apply to anything that is making us do something we typically don’t that has a little bit of strain on us. Hence we can exercise our muscles, our minds, and even something like a library. It all depends on the context. Sometimes these forms of exercise overlap. An interesting one that most people don’t realize is that exercising your body and muscles does appear to improve our memory and other aspects of cognition. It doesn’t really make very much intuitive sense to a lot of us simply because when we’re exercising our minds we generally think of doing something intellectually stimulating. Furthermore, that is what we’re supposed to do to keep our minds healthy, isn’t it? The truth, as always, is more complex than that. You can get a lot out of “exercising your brain”, but the exercise you do to benefit the rest of your body necessarily helps your brain as well.

The Straightforward Approach
There are multiple ways that exercise helps our memory and general cognition. We’re going to start with some of the most obvious and direct links though so that it isn’t easy to dismiss this discussion as “pure technicality”. Studies show that the immediate links between exercise and our memory tend to revolve around what exercise does for the body. It is known to help our body do things like regulate inflammation as well as encouraging our body to repair the body as we go. As an organ, your brain is included in all that. Exercise stimulates overall growth in the body and within the brain this tends to result in better blood circulation throughout it that improves overall health. Some studies suggest that it similarly helps with improving the rate of repair and renewal within the cells of the brain as well. Exercising, in effect, can actually improve the overall volume of your brain. This is all wonderful for our long term cognitive health, but the other aspects of how exercise helps our minds make it even better.

Sleeping Away the Stress
A lot of us feel better after we exercise. Part of this has to do with the reward chemicals that the achievement of starting and completing the exercise gives us, but it also comes from the release of other hormones in the body. These tend to help regulate our overall stress levels and lower them. Exercise literally helps you work through things…in a fairly indirect way. Regular exercise also has a way of helping to improve our overall ability to sleep. The exertion helps us by rendering the body physically more tired than it would be as well as through the hormones that have been released overall easing us into sleep better. This combination of stress management and greater ease in rest helps to deal with issues like long term anxiety. Most people find themselves feeling overall better when they exercise regularly. This combination of cognitive benefits helps reduce the physical issues that long term stress and lack of sleep can have on the brain. The end result is your memory and other aspects of your cognition working better.

Flexing Your Memory
If you’re looking for a more traditional way to help your brain, you can actually improve your overall cognition fairly simply. You don’t need any fancy “brain training” courses either. All you really need are passions and maybe other people. Pursuing a hobby regularly, especially a creative hobby, has been shown to do wonders for the mind. It keeps it active and thinking in the novel ways necessary to prevent any true decay. The fact that our hobbies can keep us happy and healthy in such a way makes them even more attractive. Those of us less driven to solitary pursuits can get a similar benefit from regularly socializing with others. Taking classes with others to learn new skills can do a lot to keep the mind active. It also helps improve our emotional health as well. Science, in effect, tells us that the simple acts that help define being human are what can help exercise our minds and keep our memory and other cognitive functions sharp.

Direct physical exercise, amusingly enough, actually directly benefits cognition. It improves the physical health of the brain and that in turn increases how well our minds function. This happens in direct ways from hormones released into the brain and greater blood to the mind as well is in less direct ways through encouraging healthier habits and providing stress management. There are other things you can do to help boost your mind’s health too that are quite simple. Don’t let yourself forget that your regular exercise is also helping your brain though.

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