By Nicole Gould, RDN, CLT Kemper Cognitive Wellness
You’re probably aware of the profound benefits exercise has on the body, but did you know that it also has a significant impact on the brain? Exercise supports oxygen and nutrient delivery to the brain, removes waste and toxins, normalizes blood sugar, and can even increase the size of your brain over time. Furthermore, when you exercise, you make “feel good” chemicals, called neurotransmitters, that improve mood and help cells connect to each other better.
Though we would say any amount of exercise that you are willing and able to do will help, experts suggest at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity activity. As far as what type of exercise is best, combining physical exercise with brain-stimulating activities, referred to as dual tasking, is believed to be one of the best ways to push back against cognitive decline. In fact, preliminary studies show participants who combine physical exercise and mental challenges, have better results than if they were to do the same things separately. Dual-tasking exercises not only encourage the growth of new brain cells (neurons) in the brain but are believed to help maintain these neurons and connections as well. It is a great way to keep your mind sharp, boost mood, and push back against cognitive decline.
The brain craves challenges and grows through learning new things. Though this can be challenging as we get older and we tend to stick to what we already know, it’s even more of a reason to challenge yourself. Never stop moving and never stop learning – ideally at the same time!
So, how can you add dual-tasking to your brain-healthy lifestyle?
- Brisk walking while counting backward from 100 by 7
- Bounce a tennis ball and name as many words that start with the letter “G”
- Do mental math on a bike ride
- Memorize a shopping list while doing aerobic activities.
If you prefer a more structured class, Kemper Cognitive Wellness is proud to offer weekly Brain Boot Camp classes, combining physical exercise with brain-stimulating activities. Classes meet both in-person and virtually. For more information, visit KemperWellness.com/brainbootcamp or call Kemper Cognitive Wellness at 216-337-1400.