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Maintain Your Brain

Apr 01, 2018 07:00AM ● Published by Brian Saucedo

By Kelsey Casselbury

When it comes to fitness, it turns out that exercise boosts the brain just as much as it benefits the body. Even better news? As little as 10 minutes of exercise at a time can have a positive effect. 

Your brain naturally loses about 5 percent of its size every 10 years after age 40—and potentially more after age 70—and you’ll probably see it with a dip in memory, language, and your general thinking process. However, a review of 14 clinical trials published in Neuroimage in February determined that aerobic exercise increases the size of the left portion of the hippocampus, the region that plays a key role in memory function and verbal learning. 


This effect comes from a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which your body naturally produces when you do aerobic exercise—that is, any exercise that raises your heart rate and sustains 
it for at least a few minutes at a time. You might simply know it as cardio, such as running, biking, swimming, dancing, or brisk walking.

The idea of doing cardio for lengthy periods of time can be quite loathsome for some, though. Thankfully, a separate study published in Neuropsychologia in January concluded you can get a mental boost after just 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, though further research is needed to figure out how long the benefits last after the workout session is done.Researchers noted that this is excellent news for people who have physical limitations that prevent them from doing a whole lot of physical activity. 

Strength-training can also raise the heart rate, but research has yet to link it to brain health like cardio. The best bet: a mix of both aerobic exercise and regular strength-training (at least 20 minutes a day, two days a week), allowing you to have both brains and brawn. 
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