Here’s why hitting the gym could actually improve your memory, too

There’s no denying that it can be difficult to get up and start exercising, but here’s something that should motivate us all onto the treadmill: According to a new study the benefits of exercise may go way beyond a shapely bod and tie directly into how well your memory works.

This week, the American Academy of Neurology published a new report that found that elderly people (with an average age of 71) who exercise moderately or heavily performed better on cognitive tests of processing speed, episodic and semantic memory, and executive function, and were able to delay cognitive decline by as much as 10 years.

Why did the exercisers among the 876 study participants do so well? The primary reason maybe that the brain thrives on blood flow and there’s no better way to get blood flowing to the brain than exercise, which increases the heart rate and thus improves circulation and oxygenation.

Exercise also releases dopamine, a hormone that gives the brain a nice, natural high. Then there the connection factor: When the brain is regularly and properly oxygenated, it’s easier for it to form new neural connections, which ultimately strengthens our most powerful and important organ.

It looks like it’s not just enough to take a short walk or do a little yoga, however. The study found the benefits primarily in the participants who reported moderate to heavy exercise, like regular running and fast-paced aerobics. Who knew that breaking a sweat could be so good for you?

So, tell your parents and grandparents to keep up physical activity if they want to get the most out of their later years–and get to exercising yourself!

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