Exercise IS Brain Food

There is a strong and proven link between regular physical activity and the maintenance of cognitive brain function. There are a vast number of positive effects on the brain due to exercise.[1] A few examples of these include:

  • Improved connections in the brain
  • Plasticity and ability to learn new skills
  • Growing number of nerve cells
  • Brain volume

Exercise is also important in the prevention and delay of dementia related illness in older populations. Studies show that regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia by 30%, and for Alzheimer’s disease specifically the risk is reduced by 45%.

The five behaviours that were assessed included:

  • Not smoking
  • Moderate alcohol consumption
  • Healthy body weight
  • Healthy diet
  • Exercise

Exercise had the greatest effect with regards to reducing an individual’s risk of developing dementia and improves the outcomes of adults performances on cognitive function tests. Clinical trials have demonstrated that a month or more of regular aerobic exercise result in improvements in memory retention, attention and processing speed when compared to adults who did not complete regular aerobic exercise.

So, if we know that exercise is good for our brains health as we age– is there a better type or intensity of physical activity we should be participating in?

Several studies have highlighted the positive effects of aerobic exercise on the ageing brain.

Aerobic exercise commonly refers to exercise that uses large muscle groups, lasts for 30-45 minutes and works predominantly the cardiovascular system. This includes jogging, walking, swimming, and cycling with mild- moderate intensity.[2]

However, it is proven that all forms of exercise are beneficial. More so than what kind, regular participation in any exercise or physical activity will continue to not only keep the body strong and healthy, but also the mind.


[1] Cabral, D.F., Rice, J., Morris, T.P. et al. Exercise for Brain Health: An Investigation into the Underlying Mechanisms Guided by Dose. Neurotherapeutics 16, 580–599 (2019). 

[2] Alty J, Farrow M, Lawler K. (2020). Exercise and dementia prevention. Practical Neurology 20:234-240.

Lauren Stein

About Lauren Stein

Lauren has a special interest in treating sports injuries stemming from her own experiences and injuries playing soccer and futsal at a high level. Spending hours at the Physio sparked her interest in one day becoming a Physio herself! Lauren has worked on the sidelines with Rugby Union teams and, in addition to helping athletes, she has particular interest in neck and lower back pain as well as knee and ankle injuries. Lauren incorporates both manual therapy techniques and selects specific exercises to best motivate and get speedy improvements for her clients. When she’s out of the clinic you can find Lauren out visiting family in Orange, exploring the restaurants and beaches of Sydney or buried in a good novel.

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