Try These Exercises To Improve Your Memory

The mind-body connection might be more powerful than some people think. Most of us assume that loss of memory is a normal part of the aging process. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, as we get older the brain undergoes subtle changes that often result in a loss of cognitive functions, including an impaired ability to remember events from the past, called recall memory or episodic memory. This type of memory is distinct from more serious conditions like medium cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia, which often involves more severe memory problems like forgetting your name or where you live. Episodic memory includes things like remembering where you put your keys or what you did last fourth of July, common issues of forgetfulness that can affect anyone but tend to increase with age (via the UK's National Health Service).

But a new study published in Communications Medicine casts serious doubt on the conventional belief that we're all doomed to experience memory loss as we get older, by revealing that aerobic exercise can improve memory well into old age.

How physical exercise keeps the mind in shape as well

Research has found that aerobic exercise, which raises the heartbeat for a sustained period of time, significantly improves the capacity for episodic memory in adults over 55 years of age (via Communications Medicine). Because there are no pharmaceutical treatments for normal episodic memory issues, the researchers have recommended that aerobic exercise be considered a treatment option for older adults who suffer from episodic memory loss.

Aerobic exercise can give you many positive health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic, including helping you maintain a healthy body weight, improving your cardiovascular health, boosting your mood, strengthening your immune system, giving you more energy, and keeping your arteries clear. It also gets you to breathe deeply, which carries more oxygen to your blood and brain. On top of all that, aerobic exercise now is seen to increase markers of brain health that otherwise decline with age and are associated with increased risk of Alzheimer's Disease (per Communications Medicine).

Low-impact exercises for memory performance

You may find it easier than you imagine to engage regularly in aerobic exercise. Taking aerobics classes at your local gym, starting a jogging routine, or doing laps at a neighborhood swimming pool are all ways to bring memory-boosting activity into your daily life. Even brisk walking is a powerful aerobic exercise and in fact, a 2021 study published in the journal NeuroImage found that older adults who took regular walks over a period of six months showed significant improvement to their episodic memory performance. The researchers in the study also found that the improved memory correlated to enhanced connectivity in the white matter of the brain, which frequently suffers from deterioration due to age.

Keeping active into old age has been found to have profound protective effects on the brain. According to Harvard Health, dancing has an incredible positive impact on cognitive functioning and improves neural connections that result in better long-term memory recall. Tai Chi, an ancient exercise practiced by millions of people in China and other Asian countries, and is known for its low-impact movements that do not stress bones or joints, was found in a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society to improve cognitive function in older adults. Memory problems may be a normal part of getting older, but don't forget that staying active carries lifelong benefits for both the body and the mind.