Exercise Boosts Brain Power

By: David Walbright PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Orthopaedic Rehab Specialists- Jonesville Clinic

You may have heard, perhaps from your Physical Therapist, that exercise is good for you. While it's simple to see the benefits being primarily physical, such as maintaining a healthy blood pressure, preventing diabetes, improving cardiovascular health, and preventing muscle/joint injury, but exercise's benefits on cognitive ability may get overlooked. Science suggests that exercise can improve memory and attention span, and also may prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

How does exercise provide these brain-boosting effects? One of the main ways is that it causes our bodies to release a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a substance that basically acts like "miracle grow" for our brain cells. Having more brain cells and greater connections between brain cells is an important factor when it comes to recalling information and preventing cognitive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Being aware of the connection between brain health and exercise can hopefully be another motivating factor for us to either start a new exercise program or continue with the one we are currently doing. One important thing to consider when choosing an exercise program is to make the program realistic. For example, if someone works 60 hours per week, has 4 children at home, plays bingo 3 times a week, and likes to spend time reading Sci-Fi novels, a marathon training routine that includes exercising for 2+ hours per day/6 days per week may not work into their schedule. To get the brain-boosting effects, it's more important whether an exercise program is performed and less important as to the type or difficulty level of the program. Perhaps a good goal for someone who is not in the habit of exercising is to perform 3-5 days per week of 30-60 minutes of at least "moderately vigorous" physical activity. Moderately vigorous physical activity does not necessarily need to be performed in a gym and could include a brisk walk with your dog.  Therapists, Athletic Trainers, and Physical Therapists are skilled at individualizing exercise programs and we at ORS are more than happy to help you get one set up!

David is a Physical Therapist at our Jonesville Clinic and can be reached at davidwpt@orsmi.com