Improve your brain with regular exercise

Is there a connection between exercise and improved brain function? What if you could improve your brain with exercise?

One of the first complaints as people age, along with loss of energy, is loss of mental acuity. Ever walk into a room and forget why you are there? Found yourself looking for lost keys? Forgotten names or called your kids by the wrong name? We usually laugh these incidents off as forgetfulness or getting older, but what if there was a way to keep your mind sharp and focused?

John Ratey, Harvard University professor and expert in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, calls exercise “the single most important tool people have to optimize brain function.” If you get your body in shape, he says, your mind will follow. According to his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain exercise improves cognitive performance. Exercise gives energy to the brain. Studies have shown that exercise is one of the factors that delays the onset of cognitive decline by as much as seven to 10 years. And it plays a role in maintaining and regaining cognitive function.

With lack of physical exertion, usually due to an increasing sedentary lifestyle that comes with aging, bodies and brains slow down and weaken. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can improve cognitive performance, reduce stress and addictionrelated cravings, as well as soften the negative consequences of hormonal changes.

One of the simplest ways to get started exercising is by walking. You can walk almost anywhere and it does not require a pricey gym membership or expensive equipment, just a good pair of shoes. Even moving a little bit, such as walking very slowly, causes some increase in heart rate. When you amp up the intensity, the benefit increases. Most studies indicate that with increased intensity, a maximum heart rate at 65 to 75 percent, there are added benefits.

The good news is that exercise can improve our brains. With greater awareness about the benefits of exercise for improving the mind, do you think more people would make exercise a priority? The reality is that half the people who start an exercise program end up dropping it in the first few months. Exercising as a way of life requires commitment. It is easier with a clear plan and support structure.

Set yourself up for success by creating the focus and support you need to be successful in incorporating exercise into your lifestyle. Make a simple plan. Ask someone to keep you accountable, a friend or loved one, you may even want to hire a trainer or coach. Get started today and sharpen your brain with exercise!

Check with your physician before starting any exercise program.

Pat Morgan, MBA and success coach, is the founder of Pat’s Healthy Living. She works with busy professionals to create health and lifestyle freedom. She may be contacted by calling 305-458-2849 or by email at

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