Most of are well-versed on the many benefits that exercise has on our physical well-being. A regular fitness regimen helps keep our body toned and fit and makes us agile and nimble. However, exercise isn’t just good for the body—it’s also incredibly beneficial for our brains.
Not all exercise is equal, and that is especially true if you are looking to train and boost your brain’s performance. In a study published by the University of British Colombia’s British Journal of Sports Medicine last year, experts found that when it comes to brain health, cardiovascular exercise is best. Cardio not only burns 67 percent more calories than resistance training, it also improves the brain’s ability to learn and retain information.
“Researchers found sweaty, heart pumping aerobic exercise appears to increase the size of hippocampus, the brain area relating to verbal memory and learning,” wrote Harvard Health Blog executive-editor Heidi Godman of the findings.
With diagnoses of dementia and Alzheimer’s on the rise, these findings indicate that cardio exercise may be a preventative tool in combating these destructive illnesses. “Researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide,” continues Godman.
Improved psychomotor speed (the relationship between physical movement and thinking skills) is an additional benefit of cardiovascular exercise, as well as enhanced endurance and energy and weight maintenance. “Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for Brain Health. “These findings should motivate adults of all ages to start exercising aerobically.”
Toronto-based executive, Sheldon Resnick, can attest to the many brain enhancing benefits of regular cardio. Sheldon Resnick, who is the founder of Sheldon Resnick and Associates executive recruiting firm in Toronto, completes 350 to 400 minutes of cardio exercise every week. “I started my cardio regimen quite a while ago, and have seen a noticeable increase in my acuteness and sharpness,” Resnick adds.
Committing to six or more hours of cardio training a week isn’t easy, but Sheldon Resnick explains that he progressed to the level he is at now and started out doing shorter intervals fewer times a week. The heightened focus and attention that Resnick described is one of the factors experts believes proves that cardio fitness is beneficial for the brain.
Loss of sharpness or ‘edge’ is one of the most common complaints doctors hear from their aging patients, and is often a precursor for a worsening condition. “Science has shown that aging decreases mental efficiency and memory decline is the number one cognitive complaint of older adults,” said Dr. Chapman. “This research shows the tremendous benefit of aerobic exercise on a person’s memory and demonstrates that aerobic exercise can reduce both the biological and cognitive consequences of aging.”
Adding a routine cardio regimen to your workout schedule is one way we are able to train our most important organ—our brain. Research has shown that as little as 20 minutes of cardio activity a day can be extremely beneficial.