- A new study published in the journal Brain found that having a good blood supply to your brain can help improve your memory.
- Exercise has been found to increase blood supply, and since working out gets your blood pumping, at least some of it ends up in your brain.
Some people can hear something once and remember it for years to come, while others need a few reminders in order for information to stick.
A good memory has been linked to numerous factors, including having low levels of inflammation throughout your body and getting an ample amount of antioxidants. Now, a recent study published in the journal Brain adds one more to the list: a good blood supply to your noggin.
German researchers recruited 47 people, ages 45 to 89, and used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the blood supply to the hippocampus—a small area in the brain that is considered the “control center” for memory. The participants were also evaluated in memory performance, ability to concentrate, and speech comprehension.
Twenty of the participants were found to have alterations in the blood vessels in their brains that affected blood supply to the hippocampus. This group also had lower scores on cognitive tests, leading the researchers to conclude that the supply of both blood and oxygen coming through the blood vessels could have a significant effect on memory function.
“This study shows a clear link between blood supply to the hippocampus and cognitive performance,” study coauthor Stefanie Schreiber, M.D., senior neurologist at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Magdeburg, Germany, told Bicycling. “This suggests that brain blood flow might play a key role in the declining of memory performance caused by age or disease.”
She added that lifestyle factors, such as exercise, could have an influence on the formation of blood vessels that supply the hippocampus, as well as the efficiency of how they deliver blood to that area.
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More research will need to be done to confirm that possibility, she added, but previous studies suggest that when exercise gets the blood pumping, at least some of it ends up in the brain—and that effect may be beneficial for improving cognitive function.
A small, 2011 study of older women found that brisk walking for 30 to 50 minutes three or four times per week improved blood flow to the brain by as much as 15 percent. Those researchers noted that not only does the blood bring oxygen and other nutrients to the brain, but it also washes away metabolic wastes such as amyloid-beta protein, which has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease development.
Another study from 2015 concluded that exercise may prevent or delay cognitive decline by improving the rate of brain atrophy as well as blood flow.
No matter what mechanisms are at play, it’s clear that increasing your activity levels benefits more than just your muscles—it can be a major brain booster as well.
Whether you’re a fitness fanatic or casual gym goer, the thought of picking up a dumbbell covered in germs is enough to make anyone cringe. And with the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) becoming more prominent every day, gyms and fitness centers across the country are closing their doors to help protect members.
If staying active is an important part of your life (as it should be!) you might be wondering how you’re supposed to go about this whole at-home workout thing. Thankfully, it’s easier than you think.
“A lot of what you’ll find with at-home workouts is about maintaining your current level of fitness,” explains exercise physiologist Katie Lawton. “And with workouts, consistency is key.”
Here Lawton shares some practical advice about how to stay active at home.
- Find workouts through online videos and apps. The internet is choked full of free workout videos. From yoga, to Zumba, to circuit training that you can do in your backyard. Test out a few workouts to find a series, program or instructor that you like. (Bonus points if you can get other members of your household to join you!)
- Walk, run or bike outside. Everyone could use a little fresh air. Hit the pavement in your neighborhood and challenge yourself to walk, run or bike a certain number of minutes or miles. If you’re an experienced fitness buff and you’re really looking to ramp up your heart rate, opt for hills or try a running based HIIT workout.
- Focus on body weight movements. Now’s the time to incorporate body weight exercises into your workouts. These tried and true movements include things like pushups, squats, lunges, planks and burpees. They’re convenient, efficient and inexpensive (AKA free). Pick a few different movements and create a circuit workout by completing as many reps of that one movement as possible in one minute. Then rest for a minute and continue on to the next movement and do the same thing. Repeat this for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Order inexpensive fitness equipment online. Things like jump ropes, pull up bars that attach to door frames, suspension trainers and resistance bands are inexpensive items that can pack a punch when it comes to your workouts. Lawton recommends choosing a heavier resistance band and suggests tying the suspension trainer to a tree outside. You could also ask around if other family members or neighbors have old dumbbells or barbells that they no longer use.
- Utilize items around your house. Lawton encourages creativity when it comes to working out at home. Run up and down your basement stairs, use a chair for triceps dips or grab cans of soup or a gallon of water as a weight. Even jumping over a shoebox a few times can be a quick burst of cardio.
- Get your household involved. If you have kids, chances are they have more energy to burn off than you know what to do with and they’d be thrilled to be involved. Try to incorporate them into your plans to stay active – whether it’s encouraging them to do pushups with you or organizing a backyard obstacle course. Try to walk your dog every day, play tag with your kids or get your whole family involved in a backyard soccer game. Also never underestimate the power of a good dance party! It’s a great way to make memories with your family and burn off some stress and anxiety.