Once we hit late middle age, the part of the brain most associated with memory—the hippocampus—begins to shrink. As we all struggle with daily memory “hiccups,” memory issues become more frightening and life-altering as we reach the age when dementia is an all-too-real possibility.
But there’s some good news! In an online article of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report that aerobic exercise reversed age-related changes in the hippocampus and improved memory.
Memory improvement and brain changes were seen with just moderate amounts of exercise. In the study, participants were instructed to walk for about 40 minutes at moderate intensity just three days a week for a year. The benefits were specific to memory and the hippocampus—other areas of the brain were seemingly unaffected by the addition of exercise.
Although yoga, stretching, resistance training and other types of exercise are good for the body, only walking was shown to improve memory in this study.
It is difficult to think of a greater reward for such a small investment of time and energy. Imagine it: We can change the structure of our brains and reverse age-related losses with just two hours of brisk walking per week. It wasn’t that long ago that scientists didn’t even know that the brain could “grow” with new connections in adulthood.
Are there any excuses left for not putting on a pair of sneakers? This one should be a no-brainer.
To read an abstract of the article, click here: Exercise Training Increases Size of Hippocampus and Improves Memory