The #1 Best Exercise for Your Brain
Researchers have known for years that exercise helps make your smarter. Now there are studies that point to exactly what kind of workout does the most to boost brain function.
Turns out, good old-fashioned cardio is best. Research indicates that sustained aerobic exercise offers more brain health benefit than strength-training or high-intensity interval training.
Just remember – whether you opt for running, jogging, biking or swimming – to reap the brain rewards, you must get your heartrate up and keep it up for 75 minutes per week.
To calculate a healthy maximum heart rate during aerobic exercise, subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 45 years old, subtract 45 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 175. This is the maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise.
In science language, an aerobic regimen helps with adult hippocampal neurogenesis –nerve growth in the brain’s hippocampus (which plays an important role in memory).
One test put 21 male volunteers through a set of tests to assess their working memory immediately after a 30-minute session of either aerobic exercise or resistance training, and then repeated the tests a half-hour later. (Working memory is the ability to remember something and then retrieve it for use a short time later.)
Aerobic exercisers improved their reaction time on the initial post-exercise test and improved it even more on the second test. Meanwhile, strength trainers showed no more improvement on their test scores than control participants who had not exercised at all!
There are also studies to suggest that the harder your exercise, the more cognitive gain you can expect. An animal study found that mice forced to run on a treadmill made greater improvement in brain function than mice that ran at a leisurely pace on an exercise wheel.
Respected sports medicine physician and fitness instructor, Dr. Jordan Metzl, puts it simply. “Exercise, particularly intense exercise, is probably the most effective brain medicine that we have. More effective than any drug, any crossword puzzle, or any special food.”