Most of us have likely been encouraged by a doctor to exercise more or start a regular fitness routine. Yes, even if it’s as simple as taking a walk after dinner each night. Whether the encouragement comes from a cardiologist or a chiropractor, it’s fair to say that doctors across disciplines encourage exercise whenever it’s safe for a patient to do so. Physical therapy is even there to help you with exercises appropriate when healing from an injury or surgery — that’s how valuable fitness is to your health. There’s no denying that exercising is good for us. But, more often than not, the benefits focused on are purely physical. Now, recent research offers another benefit. Physical fitness may also provide some big benefits for your brain.


The Research

A study recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine focused on what exercise does to the brain, rather than just what happens physically to the body. Specifically, the study focused on what happens to the brain and cognitive function in people over 50, and looked at the role regular physical activity can have on things like attention, memory, working memory, and executive function. Given that these are all major concerns as we age, this study offers a healthy, natural means of helping support our minds now and in the future. The end goal of the study was to look at exercise and the potential effects on concerns like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other age-related mental issues.


The Findings

The study looked at the effects of different types of physical activity as well as duration, frequency, intensity, and length of exercise. The overarching conclusion is that exercise of all kinds (with the exception of yoga), when performed for 45 to 60 minutes at a time, showed “significant positive effects on cognitive function.” Exercise in general helped the brain, as both aerobic and resistance training provided similar results. The focus was primarily on aerobic and resistance training, but it also looked specifically at Tai Chi. The findings regarding Tai Chi specifically were positive, and the study suggests this is a good fitness option for those with reduced functional ability.


What Does This Mean For Me?

In a general and overarching sense, this study supports the whole-body benefits of exercise. The good news is you don’t need to stick to one specific type of exercise to experience the positive effects. The bigger thing to focus on is to find exercises that you can maintain for 45 to 60 minutes multiple times a week. Based on the study’s findings, the more important aspect was how long the physical activity was maintained, not necessarily what was done.

No matter what your current level of physical fitness, it’s time to incorporate more activity into your weekly routine to help your brain and your body. For those that may have health concerns or questions about how to create a routine based on your health needs, start with a plan customized for you. Work with a local physical therapist for exercises, modifications, and even help creating an exercise routine that works for your body’s current ability and can help you build up those abilities over time.


Physical Therapy Benefits

If you experience joint pain, back pain, muscle strains, or any number of aches or physical issues, don’t let that deter you from being active — especially now that you know your brain can also be helped by that activity. Physical therapy is a great option to help work with those aches and injuries safely. The goal is to help your body heal appropriately and help you build strength and increase function, so our suggested treatment options will be tailored specifically to your needs. We can also help you create an exercise plan to follow outside of treatments which will supplement your physical therapy sessions and help you safely incorporate exercise into your routine.

Here at Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa, we focus on whole-body health, which means combining modalities as needed to support healing and overall health. Our physical therapist may suggest adding chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, massage therapy, or other treatments in addition to your physical therapy routine. It’s all based on what your body needs. Don’t let back pain or other aches stop you from being active. Connect with our Peoria-based team to schedule a consultation and see how we can help you support your body and your mind.