Published: Oct 26, 2012 7:57 AM EDT
Updated: Oct 26, 2012 8:42 AM EDT

Physical Exercise for Brain Health

We know that exercise is good for physical fitness, but research indicates that it's good for
brain fitness, too. In a study of older adults, aged 60 to 80, who exercised for 30 to 45 minutes
three days a week for a year had an increase in the part of the brain that controls memory, and
increased the number of neurons.

This study shows that the brain, even in the later years, can grow and develop, and function
better if stimulated by exercise. Aerobic exercise also improves sleep and reduces stress, both of
which are important for maintaining brain health and a sharp mind.

Mental Exercise for Brain Health

Like your muscles, your brain needs regular workouts to stay healthy and fit as you age. Just
as we lose some muscle as we get older, our brains can atrophy, too. Your brain’s cognitive
reserve, or its ability to withstand damage due to aging without showing visible signs of slowing
or memory loss, diminishes through the years.

Just as weight workouts add lean muscle to your body and help you retain more muscle in
your later years, researchers now believe that performing regular, targeted brain exercises can
also increase your brain's cognitive reserve. The bigger your brain's cognitive reserve, the
more "backup" brainpower you possess.

COGNITIVE RESERVE ANALOGY: handyman’s toolbox. Cognitive reserve—and robustness

in general—is achieved by blanketing a problem with overlapping solutions. If a handy man has several
tools in his toolbox, then losing his hammer does not end his career. He can use his crowbar or the flat
side of his pipe wrench. The handyman with only a couple of tools is in worse trouble.