We all know that physical activity plays a massive role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps you currently exercise to lose weight, gain confidence, or prevent a full-spectrum of health conditions. Whatever your reason may be, here’s another one you can add to your list: to improve memory and cognition.
Before we dive into the role of exercise in boosting neurogenesis and brain plasticity, let’s go over the two main parts of the brain that we're going to discuss today.
The first part is the prefrontal cortex located at the front of your frontal lobe (behind your forehead). This brain region is critical for decision making, focus, emotional response, and personality expression.
The next area is the hippocampus located in the medial temporal lobe (near the center of your brain). This structure is primarily associated with memory, particularly developing and retaining long-term memories.
The Proof is in the ResearchA substantial body of data suggests that the prefrontal cortex is the most common neuroanatomical area to benefit from a single period of exercise, otherwise termed as “acute exercise.” In reference to cognitive performance, acute exercise mainly improves prefrontal cortex-dependent functions including attention, working memory, problem solving, cognitive flexibility, and decision making.
These positive effects have been shown to occur with low to high-intensity acute aerobic exercise, with changes lasting for up for two hours post-workout. However, it’s important to note that the type of exercise and overall health status of the individual may be significant variables affecting the influence of acute exercise on cognitive functioning.
As for the hippocampus, a 2011 study discovered that “aerobic exercise training [increased] the size of the anterior hippocampus [by 2% in older adults], leading to improvements in spatial memory.” Although the growth increase may seem insignificant, we must turn our attention to the fact that age-related loss in volume was successfully reversed by a whopping one to two years!
In another 2015 study centered on older women (70-80 years) with probable mild cognitive impairment, it appears that aerobic exercise significantly enhanced hippocampal volume and spatial memory as well. However, balance and tone training did not yield the same results.
Why Altering Your Brain’s Anatomy is Essential
Now that you understand physical activity creates a larger prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, perhaps you’re wondering why this is important. Well, those two brain regions are at the highest risk for neurodegenerative diseases and normal cognitive decline that comes with age.
Theoretically, an increased prefrontal cortex and hippocampus size may be effective at delaying cognitive decline. In other words, long-term exercise ensures that those regions of your brain can withstand more damage before you start to show symptoms.
Go the Extra MileFor optimal mental performance, consider supplementing with Huperzine-A, a key ingredient in Inspired’s Kor Thermo Complex. Huperzine-A is a novel compound isolated from the Traditional Chinese Medicine herb, Huperzia serrata.
It’s known to be a powerful acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, meaning it stops an enzyme from degrading the learning neurotransmitter, acetycholine. This therapeutic mechanism is the reason why Huperzine-A appears to be a promising candidate in fighting Alzheimer’s Disease.
It's Time to Get Moving
The good news is that you don’t have to be a marathon runner to reap the brain-boosting benefits of working out. Although further research is needed to determine exact exercise protocol, it’s likely that any sweat-inducing and heart-pumping aerobic exercise may produce positive effects.
Dr. Wendy Suzuki, professor of neuroscience and psychology at New York University, suggests three to four days of physical activity a week, with a minimum of 30 minutes per session. So sign up for a spin class, hike a local trail, take a stroll around your neighborhood, or simply dance it out in your living room.
No matter what form of exercise you choose, make sure it’s something that fires your soul, and don’t forget to pop a capsule (or two) of Kor beforehand.