A fitter frame for a fitter brain

Can’t remember the last time you went to the gym? Well, your lack of exercise may well account for that, in more ways than you might think.

Woman running

New research from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering has found that those who are more aerobically fit are more likely to have better memories.

So here are 5 ways to notch your aerobic exercise up a gear, for both a fitter frame and a fitter brain.

Firstly, what counts as aerobic exercise?

Aerobic exercises are ones typically performed at moderate levels of intensity for extended periods of time, which can help to maintain an increased heart rate. These can include running, boxing, yoga and swimming.

How does exercise help your memory?

“We all know that exercise is important for our general health. However, it is also important for mental and cognitive health – not only does it promote feel-good factors, but (along with a healthy, well-balanced diet) it helps prevent weight gain” explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists and author of Natural Solution for Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

You will know that it is important for your general health and wellbeing that you are not overweight but it is just as important specifically for your brain function. Your brain could age ten years faster if you are overweight when you are middle-aged compared with someone of a normal weight at that age.” Here's how you can boost your exercise game.

Rice cakes

Have a well-timed snack

Nutritionist Cassandra Brans explains, “It can be tricky to know when and what to eat before you workout. You want to have energy and avoid hunger pangs but avoid feeling full and uncomfortable while exercising. If you’re feeling hungry – or your last meal was more than three hours earlier – then have a healthy carbohydrate-based snack about half an hour before your workout. This could be a piece of fruit, a small slice of wholemeal toast, or a couple of oatcakes with a teaspoon of nut butter. It can be best at this time to avoid foods that are more difficult to digest, such as meat, cheese or whole nuts – apart from in very small amounts. “ 

Partner that power circuit

If you’re struggling to motivate yourself to start moving, it might be worth finding a fitness buddy who will start making you accountable for those gym sessions! Not only can it make you work harder, with a bit of healthy competition, but it can also be a more enjoyable experience, encouraging you to keep going.

Give your green smoothie a protein twist

If you need a little extra boost after hitting the gym, try giving your regular smoothie a twist by adding a scoop of organic protein powder, “Sunflower protein contains all the 9 essential amino acids with a BCAA content of almost 20% making it a perfect choice for lean muscles, nitric oxide production and strength.” explains Martina Della Veda, nutritionist at Nature’s Plus.

Woman doing yoga

Unwind with Yoga

20 minutes before bed try ditching the Netflix for the Namaste as a way to help you unwind, squeeze in a relaxing workout at the end of your day and boost your brain power.

Dr Glenville explains, “Yoga has been shown to be more effective at improving memory than brain training. In a study, people over the age of 55 who had problems with their memory, including not being able to remember faces and names, were split into two groups. One group was given one hour’s brain training a week, while the other practised one hour of yoga a week and meditation for 20 minutes a day. Both brain training and yoga improve verbal memory, but the yoga had the added benefit of improving visual-spatial memory, too. This is the memory that helps with remembering locations.”

Drift into Dreamland

“This may seem obvious, but you’re probably not going to make the most of your workouts if you’re surviving on four or five hours sleep a night. Good sleep is not only vital for optimal energy, but also for recovery and repair after exercise, so you’re in tip-top form for your next session,” advises Cassandra. 

If you’re struggling, to fall asleep in the evenings, try aiding your relaxation with a natural supplement. Cassandra explains, “Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquilliser’ and is needed to relax our muscles. It is also vital for the function of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter that your brain requires to switch off, try taking a supplement, such as Synergistic Magnesium by Quest Vitamins.”

Last modified: June 10, 2021

Written by 9:05 am Fitness