Being Active Can Improve Memory for Seniors

Did you Know Being Active Can Improve Memory for Seniors

You know exercise can change your body, but did you know that exercise can also change your brain? Researchers are discovering the many links between exercise and brain health. Studies suggest that improved memory is one of the benefits of exercise for seniors. These findings are especially heartening since older adults tend to experience more brain fog and memory loss as they age.

The Brain-Boosting Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

Although much of the way the brain works remains mysterious, studies continue to find a relationship between physical activity and cognitive health. Research suggests that:

  • Exercise bulks up the hippocampus. The hippocampus — the area of the brain involved in memory — tends to shrink as we age, which can contribute to forgetfulness, memory loss  and increased risk of dementia. Yet studies show that regular physical activity can increase the size of the hippocampus leading to improvements in memory.
  • Exercise supports the brain’s housekeeper cells. Specialized immune cells known as microglia keep the brain tidy by identifying damaged cells and triggering a response that washes the damaged cells away. People who exercise seem to have healthier microglia, especially in the parts of the brain associated with memory. Sedentary people, on the other hand, appear to have poorly functioning microglia and more problems with memory loss. Even people with Alzheimer’s — if physically active — experienced the benefits of healthy microglia: researchers found that even if their brains showed signs of Alzheimer’s, their thinking abilities had not been impaired.
  • Exercise improves episodic memory: Episodic memory is our ability to recall previous experiences. The effects of Alzheimer’s tend to first be noticed as a decline in episodic memory. A recent study showed that moderate aerobic exercise improved episodic memory in older adults, especially adults who were not yet showing signs of memory loss.Graphic of benefits of seniors staying active

Memory-Improving Exercises for Seniors

You don’t have to undertake a rigorous training schedule to enjoy the memory-boosting benefits of exercise. Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, researchers found that simply standing up and moving around more helps improve microglia function. Other studies found that just 120 minutes of aerobic exercise a week has a positive effect on brain health. Here are some activities that can help you raise your heart rate, break a light sweat and improve your memory:

  •         Take a brisk walk
  •         Do housework
  •         Garden
  •         Dance
  •         Go swimming
  •         Take a chair yoga or tai chi class
  •         Play golf or tennis

Beyond Improved Memory

Of course, regular exercise does more than improve cognitive function. It enhances overall quality of life and well-being by helping you sleep better, reducing the risk of many chronic diseases, enhancing mood, boosting energy, building strength and improving balance.

If you don’t already have a regular exercise regimen, it can be a good idea to talk to your doctor before you get started. Other tips for fitting a fitness program into your daily life:

    • Stay motivated. Doing activities you enjoy will help keep you inspired so you can maintain your fitness routine.
    • Build in accountability. Working with a trainer or signing up for a class can encourage you to keep showing up.
    • Recruit friends. Life is better with friends, and so is exercise. Participating in activities you enjoy with people you enjoy is one of the best ways to keep yourself moving.

Enjoy an Active and Luxurious Lifestyle at Santa Marta

At Santa Marta, we make it easy to stay physically active. Nestled into our 45-acre grounds are walking paths and a state-of-the-art fitness center where you can create your own fitness program or enjoy yoga, tai chi and aquatic fitness classes. We also understand that while physical fitness is an important part of wellness, so are opportunities to engage your mind and soul. With a comfortable library, interfaith discussions, daily mass, mahjong and transportation to local shops and attractions, our senior living community ensures that you have a variety of opportunities to be as active, engaged and social as you want. And, when you need a break, you can comfortably withdraw to your luxury apartment or private villa. Find out more about the remarkable opportunities for senior living at Santa Marta.