Week 33 Blog- Exercise and Your Brain

We all now the positives of regular physical exercise.  As part of the RefineMEnt family, you have worked hard to incorporate 40-50 min of exercise daily for 5 days in your week. If so, you are an overachiever- but I bet you feel great! There are plenty of good reasons to be physically active. The major ones include reducing the chances of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Maybe you want to lose a couple pounds, lower your blood pressure, prevent depression, or just look and feel better. What you might not realize is that with every step you take, every mile you pedal or every lap you swim, you’re enhancing your cognitive fitness. Recent studies suggest that the activities you do to improve your body also benefit your brain. Here’s another reason -exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.

Here are some interesting facts on your brain:

1) The average brain, which weighs about 3 lbs., has approximately 100 billion neurons.

2) There are about 100,000 blood vessels in the brain.

3) You continue to make new neurons throughout life as long as you use your brain in mental activities.

4) The brain uses about 20% of the total oxygen of the body at rest.

5) Excessive stress can alter brain cells, structure and function.

6) You can't tickle yourself because the brain can distinguish between unexpected touch and your own touch.

7) While awake, your brain generates between 10 and 23 watts of power-or enough energy to power a light bulb.

8) Every time you blink, the brain 'kicks in' to keeps things illuminated so the world doesn't go dark during the blink (which we do about 20,000 times a day).

9) The average number of thoughts that you experience each day is about 70,000.

10) That brain is 75% water.

Source: Nursing Central Assistant (Retrieved 10-31-09)

http://www.nursingassistantcentral.com/blog/2008/100-fascinating-facts-you-never-knew-about-the-human-brain/Your brain is quite intriguing and amazing. We must do everything we can to keep our brain healthy and our mental sharpness intact.

So, besides fueling correctly for a healthy brain (RefineMEnt podcast 9), hydrating podcast 5, getting proper sleep podcast 9, you must look at the facts of how exercise benefits you and your families brain health.

Let us Start today with-


Sibey and Etnier (2003) concluded in their research that a significant positive relationship exists between physical activity and cognitive function in children aged 4-18 years. They noted that physical activity improves a youth's perceptual skills, intelligence quotient, achievement, verbal tests, mathematic tests, developmental level and academic readiness.  https://www.scirp.org/(S(351jmbntvnsjt1aadkposzje))/reference/ReferencesPapers.aspx?ReferenceID=887961

Hillman and colleagues (2008) shared the findings with brain function in youth clearly indicate that exercise early in a person's life can be of great magnitude for the improvement of cognitive health during childhood and this may extend throughout one's adult lifespan. The authors continue that the physical activity requirement in schools have been reduced or eliminated to focus more on a student's academic performance.  Yet, there is no evidence that the elimination of exercise has positively influenced academic achievement. In fact, Field, Diego and Sanders (2001) showed that high school seniors who did more exercise and sports participation (7 or more hours per week) had higher grade averages, used drugs less frequently, and had better parental relationships than those who did little exercise and sports participation (<2 hours) a week. van Prag (2008) suggests that aerobic exercise in childhood might increase the resilience of the brain later in life, resulting in what is called cognitive reserve (the mind's resilience to brain neurological damage). They hypothesized the mechanism of this cognitive reserve may be attributed to enhanced cortical development, (i.e., the cerebral cortex which is involved with higher order processing such as information processing and language), thus promoting lasting changes in brain function and structure. https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/brainandex.html

And yet more- a 2018 study done by scientists at the University of Granada in Spain found that “children who are physically fit have a greater volume of grey matter in the brain’s frontal and temporal regions and the calcarine cortex, all of which are important to executive function,” and helps with learning, motor skills, and processing visual information. The study went on to find that children who were “physically fit” had better academic performance than their peers who were not participating in regular exercise.  https://brainforestcenters.com/resources/how-physical-exercise-benefits-your-childs-brain   

So how much is good for kids? For children ages three to five, it is recommended that they remain active throughout the day. At minimum, children in the preschool age range should have three hours a day of exercise or physical activity, and their screen time should be limited. School-aged children are considered those between the ages of 6 through 17 and should have at least one hour or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. They should look to incorporate cardio and aerobic exercises to strengthen their bones and build healthy muscles.

How do we make sure our kids get enough physical activity daily?  Some simple ideas are ball games outside, playing dress up or superheroes, cone drills (don’t have to have regulation cones- just use sticks in the ground or ground markers. You can even reinvent classic gym exercises like jumping jacks and sprints. If you do workouts at home, consider tailoring them so you can include your kids. This is a fun and easy way to ensure your child remains active, and it can be a bonding activity for all members of your family.


In a study done at the of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus which is the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training (weights or bands), balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results. They are great for maintaining bones and muscle health and balance as we age. The finding comes at a critical time. Researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide. Hillman and colleagues (2008) study highlight that there is very little research on the cognitive function and exercise with young adults. The authors note that most of the research involving young adults does so merely to better describe and explain the changes in brain health occurring in older populations. However, van Prag (2008) asserts that exercise does improve cognition in young and older adults. A study of 5,925 elderly women (65 years of age) over a 6–8-year range of time in which they measured cognitive function. Their study results showed that the more physically active females in the study had the least cognitive decline. Physical activity was assessed by self-reported walking in the neighborhood and time spent doing recreational activities. In a review, they concluded that several studies suggest a significant relationship between physical activity and increased cognitive function in adulthood. These authors suggest that physical activity may give a neuroprotective effect in the brain that boosts brain health and cognitive functioning. https://brainforestcenters.com/resources/how-physical-exercise-benefits-your-childs-brain   So with every step you take, every mile you pedal or every lap you swim around the pool, you’re enhancing your cognitive fitness.  Neuropsychologist Aaron Bonner-Jackson, PhD says “We know that physical exercise, and aerobic exercise in particular, is very beneficial for maintaining brain health, even in people who are at risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).”  “You can make a major difference in terms of how your body is functioning and, as a result, how your brain is functioning.” So, to preserve your cognitive health, your best bet is to work out your body and your mind through regular exercise. And one last study- just to push home the point- The study of 160 sedentary older people with mild cognitive impairment were assigned to take part in several options. 1-They could do aerobic exercise (three times a week for 45 minutes per session) and eat a heart-healthy Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, 2. DASH diet alone, or 3. receive health education. Results: During the six-month study, those who followed the DASH diet alone did not improve on assessments of executive function (responsible for tasks like planning, problem-solving and multitasking), while the health-education group’s function worsened, according to the study. However, those who combined exercise and the DASH diet improved in the assessments of executive function (responsible for tasks like planning, problem-solving and multitasking, the researchers reported. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-exercise-protects-your-brains-health-and-what-kind-is-best/    Eating a nutritionally balanced diet and nutritional education are beneficial, but in terms of cognitive health, exercise is the key!



Physical activity may benefit the brain and body in a number of ways, such as: Promoting cardiovascular health. Improving blood flow to the brain. Reducing inflammation. Lowering levels of stress hormones. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and for brain specific-stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment. Additional benefits exercise has for the brain is 1. increasing the thickness of the cerebral cortex (is the outer grey matter layer that completely covers the surface of the two cerebral hemispheres), 2. improving the integrity of your white matter (myelinated axons that provide connections between neurons, or grey matter), 3. improving integrity to the nerve fibers that connect areas of the brain’s nerve-cell-rich gray matter. 4. It also promotes neuroplasticity, your brain’s ability to form new neural connections and adapt throughout life. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-exercise-protects-your-brains-health-and-what-kind-is-best/

More Proof- In one recent study, researchers concluded that even among people who did not meet the activity guidelines, each hour of light-intensity physical activity and achieving 7,500 steps or more daily was associated with higher total brain volume. This was “equivalent to approximately 1.4 to 2.2 years less brain aging.” https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2731178    To me, every year my brain ages less- is a huge win- so I will MOVE!

What about exercise and dementia?

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked at whether people in good physical condition performed better on memory tests than people who are out of shape. The researchers studied the health and fitness records of more than 30,000 middle-aged people. As a result, they determined that men and women who were fit through the study period were almost 50 percent less likely to develop dementia than the least-fit men and women. One of the more interesting findings is that people who began the study out of shape but achieved fitness showed the same reduction in their risk for dementia. https://alzheimersproject.org/exercise-to-prevent-dementia/Start walking to help your chances of fending off neurological decline.



Start exercising! We don’t know exactly which exercise is best.  I can’t find any study on a specific exercise program that targets the brain. Most research is done on plain old walking. I guess that gives us a chance to do what we like best!

How much exercise is required to improve memory? Many studies showed participants walked briskly for one hour, twice a week. That’s 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. Standard recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week. That falls in line with what the American Heart Association recommends. For you CDC lovers- They say the same 150 minutes per week. If that seems unattainable for you right now, start with a few minutes a day, and increase the amount you exercise by five or 10 minutes every week until you reach your goal.  If you don’t want to walk, consider other moderate-intensity exercises, such as swimming, stair climbing, tennis, pickleball, or dancing. Don’t forget you can get some benefit from a good housecleaning- such as intense floor mopping or vacuuming. Try outdoor chores such as raking leaves or push mowing.  Do anything that gets your heart pumping so much that you break out in a light sweat.