Why your brain needs exercise

Why Your Brain Needs Exercise

The evolutionary history of humans explains why physical activity is important for brain health

  • It is by now well established that exercise has positive effects on the brain, especially as we age.
  • Less clear has been why physical activity affects the brain in the first place.
  • Key events in the evolutionary history of humans may have forged the link between exercise and brain function.
  • Cognitively challenging exercise may benefit the brain more than physical activity that makes fewer cognitive demands.


Strangely, the article is dated in the future. :thinking:

future date


Good seeing. It’s the online version of the paper newsletter. I think it’s post-dated to fool readers into thinking it’s bang up-to-date.

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I saw a related article this morning and will attach it here.

Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.

Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.

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In general, the authors of fitness articles are reluctant to quote pulse rates to aim for. Maybe they’re worried about litigation.

The following link is one of the few exceptions. Here are some calculations for a 40-year-old:

  • Aerobic heart rate for fat-burning = 130 -150 per min

  • Aerobic heart rate for fitness = 155 -165 per min

None of these mention the aerobic rates that might relate to memory improvement. Maybe the lower value for your personal fitness rate might be the way to go.

The link recommended by @Josh recommends “120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week”. As usual, they avoid being specific.

The following link mentions MET:

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