How your brain can benefit from exercise

When we think about exercise, we often think about the physical benefits it provides – stronger muscles, increased flexibility, better stability and more. But did you know, exercise can also have positive effects on your brain’s health? Keeping both your body and brain healthy with exercise is an important part of healthy aging. And while the pandemic has made it more challenging to exercise, there are still creative ways to move safely and do both your body and your brain some good!

 Did you know, declining cognitive function—things like memory, attention, awareness, reasoning, and judgment—is the leading cause of disability and death in older adults? The good news is, there are ways to improve it by taking advantage of the brain’s neuroplasticity, which put simply is the brain’s ability to change and make new connections.  

 Research studies have found that physical activity, such as aerobic exercise and/or resistance training, can improve cognitive function in men and women over the age of 50. The improvement may be seen regardless of whether the individual is already mildly cognitively impaired or not. In terms of duration and frequency, those who exercise at or above moderate intensity for 45-60 minutes may see the most benefit. These exercises can be done at home using videos to guide you. For resistance training, simple things you can find in your home, such as soup cans, can double as weights. It’s never too late to make a change and safely incorporate exercise into your weekly routine!

Exercising your brain can also involve cognitive-based training, such as learning therapies and computerized training, that can improve cognitive function in older adults. Research studies have found that the greatest benefit to executive function can occur when cognitive-based training is done three or more times per week for 24 sessions or more, while training for eight weeks or more can result in improvement to attention. During the pandemic, many of these therapies can be done virtually from the comfort of your home.

Combining physical and cognitive exercises can help you keep your brain healthy as you age. To learn more about how you can combine the two to improve cognitive function, read through our resources below and try our new e-learning module.

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DISCLAIMER: Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of these blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations such as social distancing and frequent hand washing. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with current social distancing recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website

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