This Is The Ideal Amount Of Exercise For A Sharper Brain, According To Science

exercise improves cognitive function study


As we age, we can look forward to experiencing wonderful things like wrinkles, sagging body parts and — yes — cognitive decline. Luckily, a new study published in the Journal of Neurology and Clinical Practice linked consistent physical activity to improved cognitive performance over time. Just like wrinkle cream (presumably) helps us fight the onset of fine lines, exercising consistently could help keep our minds sharp as we age.

According to the study, you can expect improved cognitive performance after hitting 52 hours of consistent physical activity over time. You should aim to rack up these hours of exercise over the course of a six-month period, working out consistently a few times per week.

Regardless of whether you’re into Vinyasa yoga or prefer to sweat it out at the weight rack, you’re in luck — the study found that lower-intensity, mind-body connection forms of exercise like yoga and tai chi are just as effective at improving cognitive function as higher-intensity workouts. As long as you’re consistent and hit that 52-hour mark, your brain’s health will benefit.

Researchers reviewed 100 previously published studies on exercise and cognition involving more than 11,000 participants. The average age of the participants was 73. No matter the form of movement that the participants engaged in, after hitting that 52-hour mark of consistent physical activity over the course of a six-month period, their cognitive function increased unanimously. This means that consistent exercise helped all participants think more sharply. Participants who did not hit the 52-hour mark, or participants who hit the mark over a shorter period of time than six months, did not achieve the same brain benefits.

exercise improves cognitive function study

Unsplash/Emily Sea

More specifically, consistent physical activity was found to increase participants’ abilities to focus on and manage tasks. Only half of the participants reviewed in the study experienced memory improvement from consistent exercise, so researchers didn’t have enough evidence to confidently conclude that exercise officially improves memory.

Depending on how much free time you have to work out and the type of fitness you enjoy most, as long as you’re consistent, you can reach this 52-hour mark in a variety of ways. For example, you could go for a 30-minute brisk walk five days a week and easily reach your target in under four months. But for truly lasting results, don’t give up on your routine once you reach that 52-hour target; achieving a healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint.

Whether we’re controlling our muscles during a squat or learning the alignment points of a new yoga pose, our brains are constantly engaged when we exercise. Therefore, it makes sense that if we exercise consistently over time, the performance of our brains will improve.

Who needs crossword puzzles and brain games? Our sweat sessions got us covered.


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