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Tone Your Body and Your Mind

Tone Your Body and Your Mind

Tone Your Body and Your Mind

Exercise May Help Cognition by Boosting Oxygen in the Brain

When you hear about brain exercises, you typically think of puzzles and memory games. While crosswords, board games, and other mental challenges can help keep your mind strong, studies also show that a work out for your muscles may double as a work out for your brain. A 2014 study from New Zealand suggests exercising regularly may result in better oxygen circulation in the brain and possibly a sharper mind.

Researchers recruited 52 healthy women ages 18 to 30 years. Participants completed questionnaires about their exercise habits. Researchers then measured oxygen levels in the front part of the brain while the women sat still. Next, the women completed three tasks that activate regions in the back of the brain. Researchers again measured frontal-brain oxygen levels while the women completed the tests.

As expected, oxygen levels dropped in the front of the brain during the tasks, suggesting more blood was recruited to the back of the brain as it was engaged. However, women who reported higher levels of physical activity maintained higher levels of front-brain oxygen during the tasks, and higher frontal-brain oxygen was associated with better mental performance during the most difficult task.

Oxygen is essential to maintaining normal brain function, and higher levels of oxygen may enhance cognitive performance. Engaging in regular physical activity is one way to help boost oxygen levels in the brain and past research found adding short, intense sprints to an exercise routine can boost learning by 20%. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, like jogging or cycling, five days per week and to add strength training two days per week. Making physical activity a regular part of your day, starting from a young age, will benefit your brain, help delay onset of chronic disease and keep you feeling young!

Published May 1, 2015

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