We know that physical activity does wonders for the heart, joints, bones, muscles and health in general, but did you know that exercise has also been proven to boost brain function?
A new study released last week demonstrates that, as we age, regular workouts improve our mental performance and help prevent memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer's and cognitive decline.
"Research has shown that exercise increases blood flow and oxygen levels to the area of the brain that regulates memory," said Casey Tuttle, owner of Billings Adventure Boot Camp. "That process generates new cell growth and leads to improved brain function, which may be the reason why people who are physically active have faster mental reaction times than those who don't exercise."
Tuttle added that there is also evidence showing that parts of the brain controlling reasoning, judgment and memory are larger in people who work out regularly.
Generally speaking, any routine that increases the heart rate will also pump more oxygen to the brain. As an example, interval training provides an effective cardio workout, with the added benefit of burning fat and increasing endurance.
Strength training -- for instance, working out with weights -- has been shown to stimulate the formation of new cells in the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
Mix it up. Doing the same exercise over and over again does not stimulate your brain, it dulls it. Diversifying your routines and switching exercises, on the other hand, forces your brain to stay active, sharp, and alert.
"An important thing to remember is that your brain is no different than all the other muscles in your body," Tuttle said. "You need to improve its strength, agility and performance, and the best way to achieve this is through regular exercise."
Tuttle, a certified fitness boot camp instructor and NSCA-certified personal trainer, can be reached at CaseyTut@gmail.com or 406-459-1826.