The scientific evidence is now clear. If you want to keep your mind sharp as you age, you need to keep physically active. The explanation has to do with the broad-reaching effects of exercise on the chemistry, physiology and structure of the brain.
As a teenager, I was on the swim team in high school, and I remember being able to run for hours at a time at a very fast pace. But as I got older, had children and got really busy with work, I became more and more sedentary, spending more and more time in front of my computer rather than at the gym. Ironically, my most inactive time was when I was conducting research trying to figure out how exercise boosts memory.
After collecting lots of original data, attending numerous conferences, and presenting my work in front of other experts in the field and discussing their findings, I have recently faced the fact that my sedentary lifestyle was damaging. In a major shift of priorities in my life, I now swim every day for 45 minutes at the university pool, mostly because I want to avoid the cognitive decline that comes with aging and offset my chances of getting the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease. The immediate benefit is feeling much more awake and focused during the day that I am exercising, and I find I am much more efficient and productive at work as well. Those of you who exercise regularly: Do you find this to be true for you?