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Your Brain Needs Physical Exercise

Fitness statistics in the U.S. show a trend toward increased physical activity: 54% of Americans met the federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity in 2017, up from 44% in 2008; fitness center memberships in the United States have steadily increased over the last decade; and fitness programs for older adults (notably Baby Boomers) are on the rise. That’s great news not just for physical health but also for cognitive health.

Research on middle-aged to older adults without cognitive impairment shows that regular aerobic exercise—the heart-pumping, sweat-inducing kind—can increase the size of the hippocampus, the brain area responsible for verbal memory and learning, among other improvements in cognitive capacity.

Even people already experiencing cognitive decline can benefit; for this group, shorter exercise duration and greater frequency is believed to offer the best cognitive results. In general, any activity is better than no activity, and when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, studies show that all physical activity, including routine activities like housework, can help reduce your risk.