Get Active to Get Smart
Increase your fitness and you can boost your brainpower, says a study funded by the National Institute on Aging. For years, research has shown an association between regular physical activity and healthy brain function; now a 6-month clinical trial conducted at the University of Kansas Medical Center adds to the evidence.
The study, which focused on older adults, found that 3 to 5 days of cardio exercise a week improved brainpower, specifically in these two areas:
1. Simple attention—how well you attend to a single simple task (example: researchers tested study participants’ ability to repeat a sequence of numbers forward and then backward). “Attention is a key building block of memory,” says lead researcher Jeff Burns, MD, professor of neurology and co-director of the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
2. Visuospatial processing—the ability to visually understand the spatial relationships between objects and to use that information to accomplish a specific task. This is the brainpower you tap when you are navigating or finding your way through town or planning out something you are doing with your hands, explains Burns.
How does exercise strengthen the mind?
Researchers don’t know exactly, but many changes occur with exercise. “Regular physical activity increases blood flow, improves insulin sensitivity, stimulates the growth of brain cells, influences hormones, and elicits changes in mitochondria and metabolism,” says Burns.
What should be your plan of action?
“Regular exercise helps maintain brain health, but our study found that improving your cardiorespiratory fitness also improves your brain function,” Burns points out. “More is better.” In other words, if you go to Curves two or three times a week, increase to three or four times. Even switching up your workouts can increase your fitness by challenging your body in new ways. Try any of our classes such as Boxing, Cardio, Body Basics or Balance.‡
A 30-minute Curves workout strengthens muscles, revs up cardio, enhances flexibility, and boosts brainpower. One workout—four fabulous results. Being a Curves member? Pretty smart, wouldn’t you say?