Whether we like it or not, exercise is so good for us. It helps keeps us healthy, both mentally and physically, and studies show that it also helps us stay productive, creative and smart. But how much exercise does one need to keep their brain at high functioning levels? Must I go to spin class everyday or can I do a lazy treadmill run some days? Well, luckily we now have the answer to the amount of exercise we need to keep our brain health thanks to new research.
A new study published in the journal Neurology, written by Joyce Gomes-Osman, an assistant professor in physical therapy and neurology at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, looked at 100 existing studies that connected exercise with more than 122 different tests of brain function. Then looking at the data of 11,000 older people who had mild cognitive impairment or dementia, the magic number they came up with was that people who exercised about 52 hours over a period of about six months showed the biggest improvements on their cognitive tests.
The magic number or is it?
This comes out to exercising for an hour about three times a week. The people who kept up with this amount of exercise showed the most improvements on their tests when it came to speed, problem solving and processing information. However Osman says that even though it came out to around 52 hours, it isn’t that exact. “I don’t think 52 hours is really a magic number,” says Gomes-Osman. “There really is a range. But I do think that these results signify to us that in order to get the known benefits of exercise for the brain, to help areas involved in thinking and problem solving — to get that machinery going, you need longer exposure [to exercise]. Those are all mechanistic processes that take time to develop.”
The researchers were surprised that they didn’t find any correlations between improvements in thinking and the frequency, intensity or length of time of the exercises the subjects did. In other words, you don’t have to do a tri-athalon to reap the benefits for your brain. Just keep the body moving and the blood flowing.