Maximizing your brain fitness

Keep active

Being physically active is proven to help keep our brains active. It increases blood flow to the brain but can also help combat stress, loneliness and depression and in the long run it can protect us from cognitive decline [1]. This doesn’t mean you need to be fit enough to run a marathon but every little helps! The recommendation for a healthy heart and healthy brain is to undertake either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes vigorous activity each week [2].

Exercise can be divided into two categories: physical and motor activities [3]. Physical activity involves aerobic exercise and strength training. This type of exercise is intense building neuromuscular plasticity and increasing the regenerative capacity of the brain [4]. Vigorous activity can be considered to be anything that causes you to break a sweat. This could be cycling uphill, jogging or taking part in an aerobics class. Activities that work your muscles such as digging in the garden or lifting weights are also thought to be beneficial. Motor activities are less metabolically demanding but increase balance and coordination directly enhancing cognitive plasticity. Yoga and Tai Chi. Yoga and Tai Chi are a good example of motor activities which impact cognitive function through enhancing mobility and agility [5,6].

[1]       Sofi F, Valecchi D, Bacci D, Abbate R, Gensini GF, Casini A, et al. Physical activity and risk of cognitive decline: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Journal of Internal Medicine 2011;269:107–17.

[2]       American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. WwwHeartOrg n.d. (accessed February 21, 2020).

[3]       Netz Y. Is There a Preferred Mode of Exercise for Cognition Enhancement in Older Age?—A Narrative Review. Front Med 2019;6.

[4]       Saraulli D, Costanzi M, Farioli-Vecchioli* VM and S. The Long Run: Neuroprotective Effects of Physical Exercise on Adult Neurogenesis from Youth to Old Age. Current Neuropharmacology 2017. (accessed February 21, 2020).

[5]       Brunner D, Abramovitch A, Etherton J. A yoga program for cognitive enhancement. PLoS One 2017;12.

[6]       Wayne PM, Walsh JN, Taylor‐Piliae RE, Wells RE, Papp KV, Donovan NJ, et al. Effect of Tai Chi on Cognitive Performance in Older Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2014;62:25–39.