What Type of Exercise Is Best for the Brain?

Exercise is just as good for the brain as it is for the body. And one kind in particular—aerobic exercise—appears to be king.

Exercise likely improves brain health through a variety of ways. It makes the heart beat faster, which increases blood flow to the brain. This blood delivers oxygen—a good thing, since the brain is the biggest consumer of oxygen in the body. Physical activity also increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is known to help repair and protect brain cells from degeneration as well as help grow new brain cells and neurons.

Aerobic exercise, like running and swimming, appears to be best for brain health. That’s because it increases a person’s heart rate, which means the body pumps more blood to the brain.

But strength training, like weight lifting, may also bring benefits to the brain by increasing heart rate. The link between resistance training and better brain health is not as established, but research in the area is growing.

Combining both is ideal, for all of the other benefits exercise bestows on the body.

In addition to improving your brain function, you should expect to see improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength, as well as reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes and hypertension amongst other diseases.

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