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The Key to a Healthy Mind and Memory? The Answer May Surprise You

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The Key to a Healthy Mind and Memory? The Answer May Surprise YouWe all have memory glitches from one time to another. From forgetting a past event, to forgetting where we put our keys – again. Although some changes to the brain and memory are inevitable, there is much you can do to keep your brain conditioned and memory sharp. According to a new study, aerobic exercise is one such activity.

Physical Activity's Connection to the Brain and Memory

A study published in the online version of the British Journal of Sports Medicine attempted to find a connection between physical exercise and supporting cognitive health, especially for mature adults who may be facing cognitive concerns later in life. Their particular area of focus was the part of the brain called the hippocampus, an area of the brain closely associated to memory, logic, and verbal reasoning skills that has been said to be very sensitive to age-related changes. In the course of their study researchers tested different forms of exercise on 86 women between the ages of 70 and 80 who claimed to have mild memory concerns and who were also all living independently at home. Throughout a six-month period different groups of the 86 women were assigned a different workout routine; some were assigned strictly aerobic exercises while others were instructed to complete resistance training (lunges, squats, and light weights) or balance and/or muscle-toning exercises.

The Exercise Choice for Memory Support

At the end of six months researchers wanted to look at the effect, if any, a particular form of exercise had on maintaining the size of the hippocampus. Comparisons of MRI scans of the volunteers taken before and after the study showed that women who completed the full duration of aerobic training had hippocampuses that were significantly larger than those who completed the other forms of exercise, leading researchers to believe that aerobic exercise may be more beneficial to the mind and memory. While researchers commented that more research on a larger scale needs to be done, they also cited that this is not the first sign of evidence connecting the benefits of exercise to cognitive health. A large, meta-analytic study in which researchers looked at 18 different interventional studies from 1966–2001 concluded that fitness-induced benefits were said to have "robust but selective benefits" on cognitive health.

Brain Games and Memory

While the need for consistent physical activity is one of the keys to maintaining overall health throughout your lifetime, you can also promote good cognitive function through games and exercises that directly stimulate your brain to support your mind and keep your memory sharp. Association is one of the most helpful ways of remembering and connecting memories. By creating links between pictures, concepts, and words your memory can become sharper as familiar concepts will help you recall memories faster. Crossword puzzles, card games, and other brain-stimulating games such as Sudoku can also aid your memory by forcing your mind to dig deep into its problem-solving skills. Even board games and reading books and articles on subjects you wouldn't normally be interested in can keep your mind active because they force your brain to move out of its comfort zone.

Flex Your Muscles and Your Brain Power

Research continues to show that it is possible to maintain good health at any age—and this includes the health of your brain. Aerobic exercise benefits your memory just as much as the rest of your body. Games and other mental challenges also help spur your cognitive functions to help you stay sharp. As evidence linking the benefits of physical activity to cognitive health gains more traction, hopefully this will inspire you to make exercise a vital—and regular—part of your healthy lifestyle.

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