As you drag yourself out of bed early Saturday morning to pound the pavement or do laps at your local pool, it may help to know that going through your paces does more than build muscle – research has shown it also fortifies your brain. And with dementia overtaking heart disease recently as the leading cause of death in women, it’s certainly a great reason to step up the pace! Physical activity that involves complex muscle movements requires communication between lots of parts of the brain, and this may be how it benefits brain health. Already have a daily exercise routine? To optimise the mental benefits, consider tweaking it. Any new physical activity will spark neurogenesis, the increased growth of brain tissue.
IF YOU WALK
Try mixing in intervals or walking on rocky tracks.
IF YOU SWIM
Tackle new strokes; consider trying open-water swimming.
IF YOU BIKE
Take new routes; learn techniques to climb better and descend faster.
IF YOU TAKE GYM CLASSES
Try mixing up the classes. Spinning junkie? Try Zumba. Love yoga? Keep going, but add barre classes.
IF YOU PLAY SKILL SPORTS LIKE GOLF OR TENNIS
You may be happy with your game as it is, but you can help your brain by signing up for lessons and working on your stroke. Also try new courses and new opponents.
(Discover 14 ways to get strong and lean in the Dec/Jan issue of Prevention.)