Aerobic exercise cuts down your chances of getting age-related dementia by 50%. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by a whopping 60% and if you were to walk 20 min every day, your risk of stroke by 57%. But did you know, it will also improve your memory and keep your mind active well into your later years…
Maybe I’m preaching to the converted! Maybe you already take exercise and enjoy it. Maybe it’s already a regular feature in your diary. But if not, you must have heard lots of other people say that once they get into a routine they begin to look forward to it. It is often the case that just making a start is the most difficult part. If that sounds like you, remember the well-known NIke advert and just do it! But find something you enjoy doing, not something that feels like total punishment, because that won’t last long, will it? To improve your memory you simply need to move more, not thrash yourself on the treadmill.
Physiologically we may be the same as our ancestors, but look how we react with our environment these days. Just one generation ago, we would walk upstairs, because there wasn’t a lift in every shop or office. We would walk from one shop to the next to get all of our shopping. We would walk home laden with heavy shopping.
Washing was done by hand and squeezed through a mangle, hung up to dry outside, taken down and ironed. In the kitchen, stirring, blending, chopping, kneading was all done by hand. The lawn was mown with a simple machine – powered by a Human.
Even in our day, our own childhood, we used to walk or cycle to school. We would make our own entertainment as kids, using our imaginations, and running around outside – until it got dark and we were called in.
We had to get up and walk across the room to change the channel on TV! Remember those days? Within the space of a few generations, and probably mostly within ours, we have become quite sedentary and dependent on machinery to get things done, and to get us from A to B. And it’s taking its toll on our health. Moving about more, on the other hand has many other benefits as well as being good for our brains, and I would just like to mention some of those now.
Exercise regulates certain neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. They are the very hormones that help us to feel good about ourselves and good about life in general. Some psychiatrists are prescribing exercise for patients with depression or anxiety because it’s better than anything else we know to treat those conditions.
In some cases exercise replaces medication altogether, because it’s so much more effective, not to mention there are no negative side effects, only good ones. It seems that those who benefit most from adding exercise to their therapy are older people or those with the most severe cases of anxiety or depression. The more years they take exercise the more benefits they get, but they don’t have to wait long. The benefit is felt almost straight away.
It has been found that when schools sacrifice time from academic subjects to provide the opportunity for youngsters to take physical exercise, there is no decline in their academic tests for language, reading or any of the other basic tests. In addition, it is found that when trained staff lead the PE sessions, the children’s academic tests actually improve.
So how can this be useful to you? If you want to improve your memory and consequently your exam grades, would it be worth considering getting some exercise? (I think we know the answer to that already!)
It is found that children who are physically fit are able to concentrate better and for longer and use a wider variety of intellectual resources. They’re less disruptive in the classroom and report less depression and anxiety. They also have higher self-esteems – they feel good about themselves. How’s your self-esteem? No, I’m not being funny. I’m being serious.
Busy professionals who have been struggling to be successful in compulsory exams are not going to feel good about themselves, are they? With any luck, you’ll have found some appropriate training on that score and are already making progress, so your confidence and self-esteem and getting back up to where they should be. But it’s worth noting that exercise helps you on your journey.
So whichever way you look at it – exercise is the best way to improve your health and improve your memory too.