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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : How does exercise help improve brain function as we get older?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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August 14, 2014
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Moderate-intensity exercise indeed can boost your thinking and memory. And you can see the improvements in as short as 6 months.

The direct effects of exercise on your brain function include:

  • Reduced insulin resistance. Your body and brain use blood sugar more efficiently.
  • Less inflammation. Inflammation is associated with more amyloid protein deposits in the brain, which can clog up brain cell connections.
  • Greater production of growth factors. These are chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells.
  • Growth of new blood vessels in the brain. This helps supply more oxygen and nutrients to brain cells.

Exercise can also boost your memory and thinking indirectly by:

  • Improving sleep
  • Reducing stress
  • Promoting a more positive attitude

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