The brain is the most active organ in the body and therefore very sensitive to daily stresses. Getting the right amount of exercise, proper nutrition, cognitive stimulation and adequate sleep enhances brain structure and function throughout our lives.
Great minds over the ages have known that physical activity is necessary to keep the mind strong and clear. Aerobic exercise improves cognitive function in humans, produces increases in brain volume, stimulates neurogenesis and synaptogenesis, and increases neurotrophic factors in different areas of the brain. Physical exercise may protect the brain against reduction in cognitive functions in the elderly and delay the onset and slow down the progression of Alzheimer disease.
Unfortunately, physical activity has declined as sedentary behaviors are more common in industrialized society. Sedentary lifestyles are associated with increased obesity rates, type 2 diabetes and other disorders including an increasing rate of cognitive decline with aging. Developing a regular physical activity habit is one the greatest challenges in the field of health promotion.
The activity requirements for a healthy brain and cognitive function are really relatively modest. For adults, moderate aerobic activity of 2 hours and 30 minutes (total 150 minutes) per week or 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week can change your brain for the better.
There is work to be done in the United States and other countries to meet these activity goals as less than half of adults achieve their fitness goals.
This presentation provides a current summary of the human research on aerobic activity and cognitive function in adults.
Mark Dreher PhD