These 3 exercises can help improve brain health

A study says not exercising is worse for your health than smoking, diabetes and heart disease.

While exercise helps you stay physically fit, research has found that it can keep you mentally sharp as well.

A study published by the peer-reviewed journal Science Direct found that exercise improved cognitive function in lab animals and improved neurogenesis. The study suggests that exercise reaps more than just physical benefits.

Here are a few exercises you can do to get brain benefits as well.

Aerobic exercises

Aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming and cycling increase blood flow and get more oxygen to the brain.

A study found that aerobic exercises increased memory function in those with mild cognitive impairment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 5.8 million Americans.

While there is no cure for the disease, evidence suggests that exercise reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Research has also shown that exercising for as little as ten minutes a day can significantly improve cognitive function.


Yoga is a practice that involves breath control, flexibility, balance and meditation. While many use yoga as a calming technique, the practice has also been shown to improve brain health. Balance training, which can be done through yoga, has been shown to improve spatial cognition and memory. Complex exercises that involve coordination, planning and thinking can further improve your brain.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, numerous studies have shown that people who regularly practice yoga have thicker cerebral cortexes, which is in charge of information processing in the brain. They’re also shown to have a thicker hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning and memory.

Strength training

Strength training is a type of exercise that focuses on improving muscle strength and endurance. Types of strength training include weightlifting, using resistance bands and push-ups.

Researchers at the University of Sydney published a study that found that strength training helped protect regions of the brain from shrinking. The study followed participants who have mild cognitive impairment. Participants took part in strength training exercises for 90 minutes each week. Over 18 months, their MRIs revealed that their exercise stopped degeneration of the brain.

Consistency matters

When it comes to exercising to increase brain health, routine is the most important.

“At least 6 to 12 months of exercise is necessary to detect changes in cognitive functioning,” neuroscientist Ebony Glover, Ph.D., told EatingWell. “While changes in the brain have been observed after shorter durations of exercise, these changes don’t necessarily translate to improved cognitive functioning right away. It takes consistency over time.”

For more content like this, sign up for the Pulse newsletter here.