Best Doctors: How Aerobic Exercise Improves Brain Health
“Aerobic activity stimulates brain plasticity by growing new connections between cells,” says Dr. Michael De Georgia, director of neurocritical care at University Hospitals.
Cardio also boosts growth factors like brain-derived neurotrophic factors, which facilitate new connections.
“That’s been linked to more cell growth in the hippocampus,” says De Georgia, “which is important for memory and learning.”
But, he admits, it’s not totally clear why cardio outpaces other forms of exercise in the brain game. One possibility is that aerobic exercise inhibits inflammatory cytokines, lessening the chronic inflammation that can lead to cognitive decline. Only cardio delivers these results.
A 2018 study by the Alzheimer’s Association found that physical activity had a beneficial effect on cognition and Alzheimer’s pathology, and can delay dementia in people genetically predisposed to the disease. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends either 150-300 minutes of moderate cardio (a brisk walk) or 75-150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (sweat-dripping sessions on the elliptical) each week.
“It’s best to use a combination of both,” says De Georgia. “More than just a walk, but not intense exercise every single day. Anybody who’s feeling the effects of aging, the best thing is to get moving and exercising.”
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8:00 AM EST
July 31, 2019