Exercise and Memory

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

MAY 09, 2017

Given how often I write about the importance of exercise, one might think that I am a jock. Actually, little could be further from the truth. I grew up in the era before Title IX, a law barring discrimination against girls in school sports. Sure, I played field hockey and was on a swim team for several years and reluctantly put on the little pleated tunic for gym class, but it surely never occurred to me or to my parents that I should be out exercising every day.

The importance of regular exercise did not dawn on me until I was close to 30. At that point, it was less about physical health and weight maintenance and more about stress reduction. I learned that daily running was a great antidote to a too busy schedule and a not so good marriage. I went on to run a marathon, and never experienced the so-called runners' high. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and developed my already persistent and stubborn streak.

In the years since then, I have continued to exercise regularly, but I never really enjoy it. Now I try to get to the gym every morning, making it usually 5-6 days/week. I know that I am less stiff and generally feel better if I get there. I also know that the scale is less likely to move upwards, and that everything that I read suggests that regular mild to moderate exercise may reduce the possibility of a cancer recurrence. Those are pretty good motivating factors.

This article from Health Day News suggests an additional benefit: memory. If that turns out to be true, it is surely another strong reason for us to lace up our sneakers. Here is the start and then a link to read more:

Mid-Life Exercise Could Jog Your Memory

Can a new exercise regimen boost your brain health if you're over 50? Possibly, suggests a new research review that found middle-age folks can improve their thinking and memory skills by adopting regular moderate-to-vigorous routines involving aerobic and resistance exercise. "When we combined the available data from [39 previous] studies, we were able to show that undertaking physical exercise was able to improve the brain function of people aged 50 and over," said study lead author Joseph Northey. He's a doctoral candidate and teaching fellow at the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise in Australia. The review included 18 studies that looked at the impact of aerobic exercise -- such as walking, running and swimming -- on thinking, alertness, information processing, executing goals and memory skills. Resistance training, such as weight lifting, was the focus of 13 studies. Another 10 studies looked at various types of exercise done in combination. And, a handful of studies specifically explored the impact of tai chi and yoga on brain health.


Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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