According Kathleen Doheny of WebMD Medical News the latest research had this to show.
How to increase mind power with exercise
Your brain isn’t a muscle, but as you age exercise can improve your memory and other thinking skills, a new study shows.
And the exercise doesn’t have to be as rigorous as a marathon, the research suggests.
In the new study, middle-aged men and women who cycled or did a stretching and coordination routine for two hours weekly for six months had improvements in memory and other thinking skills.
So note this is with only 2 hours per week!
Combining the two may provide even better results, says researcher Kirsten Hotting, PhD, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Hamburg, Germany. “I would guess that combining different forms of exercise might enhance their beneficial effects,” she tells WebMD.
The study is published in Health Psychology.
Exercise and Memory: Research Details
In late adulthood, experts say, a region of the brain involved in memory, the hippocampus, shrinks.
Previous research has found that this region had grown a year after older adults began to exercise. That growth was accompanied by improved memory.
So as you get older the hippocampus shrinks naturally, but grows when you regularly do exercise.
For the new study, Hotting wanted to focus on middle-aged adults. She evaluated 68 inactive men and women ages 40 to 56. She assigned them to the stretching program or the cycling program.
She added a group of 18 non-active people as a comparison group.
“The stretching/coordination training started with a short warm-up phase, followed by stretching and strengthening of the major muscles of the whole body,” she says. “Coordination exercises were balance exercises, complex movements of arms and legs, and so on. The training ended with some relaxation exercises.”
It’s interesting to note the structure that it ends with some relaxation exercises…
The cyclists were told to exercise at their target heart rate (as determined by the fitness test) for about 45 minutes, Hotting says. They ended with a cool-down.
Before and after the study, Hotting’s team measured memory and other thinking skills.
Exercise and Memory: Results
The cycling group improved their heart fitness by 15%. The stretching and inactive groups did not have noticeable changes in their fitness.
But both the cycling and the stretching groups did better on the memory test of learning a list of items than the inactive group.
The increase in this test score was linked with an increase in fitness.
The cycling group improved more than the others in the recognition test. It tests long-term retention of learned material.
One surprise finding: The stretching group actually improved more in a test of attention than did the cycling group. In a paper and pencil test, they had to find and mark certain letters quickly.
Exercise and Memory: Improved Blood Flow
The study findings echo previous research, says Scott Small, MD, the Herbert Irving professor of neurology at Columbia University. He reviewed the findings but was not involved in the German study.
Other studies have also found that an increase in fitness is linked with selective improvements in memory, he tells WebMD.
In his own research, Small has found that inactive people who become physically active can increase blood flow to the brain. They then score better on memory tests.
So it appears that the increased blood flow created through exercise has quite an impact on the functioning of the brain and the use of the mind. Will Smith testifies very much to the same end, but he also warns of that ‘little voice’ that pops up in your mind from time to time. He also suggests working on strength training and that this training is a training for life not just for getting fit.
Will Smith and Strength Training
Replace running by strength training. You know that voice Will Smith talks about. It’s the voice in your head that tells you:
- Don’t go to the gym, it’s too cold
- Don’t get out of bed at 4am to workout, it’s too early
- Don’t go for that one more rep to get all 5 reps, it’s too hard
There was a time when I did that, I let a voice in my head tell me what to do (laziness, excuses…). And I realised that did not only happen with workouts.
So as I was analyzing those things in life/workouts I get the conclusion that easy is almost always the “bad” choice.
I see a very strong connection between workouts and how you run your life. I can tell about someones character by training with him.
Become successful in strength training and you’ll become successful in business, career, finance, anything. And the other way around. Because you will have learned that persistence is key to success.
“Learn how to not quit when things get hard in your life”. Strength training pushes your limits. It teaches you life is hard. Your mind will get stronger as your body gets stronger. It takes time, but it will happen.
I feel the advice here, especially when combined with the medical research highlights that there is more than one factor involved in how to improve mind power with exercise, especially strength exercise.
I for one have re-joined a 24 hour gym. I’m putting this strength training to the test. As age naturally increases, life gets busy, excuses get in the way of a regular routine at home. It’s always a case of whatever works for you, exercise at home is fine for many and less so for others.
But don’t believe a word I say. Try it out for yourself. See how it improves your mind power. And when you’re ready for the next level let me know.
Here’s a way you can help…
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