Walking and cardio increase brain power

Given that we spend an average of 3 hours and 20 minutes a day of screen time, it’s no surprise that we keep our smartphones within easy reach most of the time. These little devices give us instant access to an unlimited source of information, right at our fingertips. We can look up where we’ve seen this actor before, search for the name of the cute cafe we ​​want to try over the weekend, and pull up an app that tells us what the song is on the radio.

The convenience of smartphones has allowed technology to infiltrate every aspect of our lives; Our smartphones are our personal planners – alerting us to meetings, setting appointment notifications, and storing hundreds of numbers. No wonder nine out of ten people in the UK own a smartphone.

But for all the benefits that this wealth of technology has brought, there can be an unfortunate and unintended side effect of its being so tightly integrated into our lives. Some neuroscientists believe that offloading so much of our day-to-day life to external devices may have been detrimental to our memory.

“Memory is essential to our ability to remember and learn, and is created in three phases: sensory, short-term, and long-term memory,” explains Dr. Zara Quail, Head of Clinical Scientific Research at Goldster, a digital app focused on healthy aging.

“To form a memory, we need sensory input, typically from what we see (iconic memory) or hear (echoic memory). If we pay attention to what we have seen or heard, this information can be converted into short-term memory, which is temporarily stored by the brain to be retrieved after about 10 to 30 seconds.

“The working memory is then involved in information that needs to be available quickly in order to solve a problem, e.g. B. when solving a puzzle or doing arithmetic. Long-term memory is formed when the hippocampus receives information from working memory and then creates current and distant long-term memories. Once memories are encoded and stored, they can be recalled or retrieved.”

Black woman staring out the window
Difficulty remembering something? Your phone usage could be to blame.

She believes that having constant easy access to an encyclopedia of information, phone numbers or maps on our smartphones means our brains are less challenged. And the main function we don’t perform as much as we used to is memory retrieval.

dr Nikki Ramskill, GP at Livi, agrees: “Relying on technology to remember things can degrade your memory, with some experts arguing that prolonged use is likely to increase the density of gray matter in the hippocampus, the part of the brain , which deals with memory, decreases .”

The constant pings, dings, and nudges from your phone can also be hugely distracting, which only adds to memory difficulties. “For short-term memory to become working or long-term memory for retrieval and learning, attention is required,” says Dr. Quail.

She points to a 2020 study of undergraduate students that showed those who thought about their smartphone more often had less accurate memories — suggesting they may already have a smartphone nearby, or even on it a favorite device thinks when trying to learn has a negative impact on memory learning and retrieval.

Coupled with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic – which has caused so many of our lives to shift into more technical spheres – this could be why 80% of people believe their memories have deteriorated over the past two years .

Cardio exercise can help repair poor technical memory

However, there is growing evidence that this digitally-induced amnesia can be somewhat thwarted by exercise. While we’re all aware that staying fit and active is good for our minds, people are less in tune with the fact that bicep curls are good for our brains.

“Previous studies have looked at the effects of exercise on brain anatomy, such as B. the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory formation, and molecules such as brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor, which is a key molecule involved in brain plasticity. memory and learning,” explains Dr. Quail. “People who exercised regularly had larger hippocampi and improved memory.”

And it’s aerobic exercise like running, swimming, biking, and even walking that’s thought to be most beneficial for improving our cognitive abilities.

A 2020 study published in neurology The study, conducted in Canada, examined the memories of 200 adults, all of whom were in good health but generally considered to be inactive. They were asked to take a test that assessed their cognitive abilities before enrolling in a new aerobic exercise program, which they had to stick to for six months.

When the tests were repeated at the end of the program, their cognitive abilities increased significantly.

The brain benefits from exercise

Reduced brain age by five years

On average, their executive function had improved by an average of 5.7%, verbal fluency scores had increased by 2.4%, and peak cerebral blood flow had increased by 2.8%. Neuroscientist Marc Poulin, who led the study, said the results were comparable to those of a person five years younger than the test subjects and showed how vigorous exercise that promoted vigorous flow to the brain “improved memory and mental acuity.” .

Increased blood flow reduces the risk of dementia

dr Quail explains why this might be so: “Adequate blood flow to the brain is essential for brain function. Cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow, promotes heart and vascular health, and reduces the risk of diseases that affect the brain and memory, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.”

Elevated mood and sleep

“But exercise also has positive effects on improving mood and sleep, and reducing stress, anxiety and inflammation, all of which can impact memory and cognition.”

Yoga can also help improve memory and mood

Exercise that encourages mindfulness, like yoga, can also help keep your memory ticking effectively.

In a study published in brain plasticityThe researchers conducted a longitudinal analysis of 11 previous studies evaluating the effects of yoga on the brain.

Neha Gothe, study author and director of the Laboratory of Exercise Psychology at the University of Illinois, found that yoga had an overarching positive impact on areas of the brain “responsible for memory and information processing and emotional regulation.”

“We think one of the key mechanisms may be that regular yoga practice affects emotional regulation,” explains Gothe, adding that activities that reduce stress, anxiety, and other negative emotional responses can improve brain function, including memory.

Woman dressed in white doing yoga
Yoga has been shown to help regulate emotions and protect memory.

How does exercise improve our brain health?

“Exercise affects the body by producing physical changes such as: B. reducing insulin resistance and inflammation, as well as promoting the production of growth factors,” explains Abbas Kanani, pharmacist and health consultant for Chemist Click. “The chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and that growth in turn helps improve not only memory but also mood, performance and pain management.”

But lifting more weight doesn’t necessarily mean your routine is dulling your brain function.

“Ultimately, the type of exercise that is most beneficial to a person’s memory is the exercise that they are most likely to enjoy and do on a regular basis,” says Dr. Quail.

“There is evidence that any type of regular physical activity has been shown to have a moderate impact on improving cognitive health and function and reducing the risk of cognitive decline.”

How long does it take to improve memory through exercise?

However, strengthening yourself in the gym does not automatically mean that you can suddenly call up all the numbers that are stored on your smartphone.

“We rely on technology so much that I don’t think we could do without it right away,” says Kanani. However, we would soon embrace our previous way of being and our minds would adjust again as we begin to retrain our brains. “I would suggest that you wean yourself off by shaking up information stored in your memory. For example, you might want to keep work-related reminders and data in your laptop diary, but for social reminders and data, try to remember them instead of storing them on a device.

“A good example would be the grocery store; Instead of writing down what you need in your notes app, try to memorize things, it’s a good brain memory workout.”

It’s normal to become more forgetful, although exercise can slow the decline

And it’s worth noting that we naturally become a little more forgetful as we age. It’s a completely normal part of getting older.

“A slight forgetfulness is normal for everyone,” says Dr. Quail. “The main issue is whether forgetfulness or memory loss affects daily functioning and quality of life.”

As with pretty much everything in life, the best way to take care of your memory and fitness is to take everything in moderation.

“My advice is to take a balanced approach when it comes to taking care of your cognitive health,” says Dr. ram skill “In many cases, smart technology can help us remember important things and reduce stress, but try not to rely on it entirely. It’s important that we continue to challenge our memory, learn new things, and adopt a lifestyle that promotes good cognitive health, including physical exercise and good nutrition.”

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