According to a recent research, it suggests that any type of exercise that raises your heart rate and gets you moving and sweating for a sustained period of time, known as aerobic exercise, has a significant and overwhelmingly impact on the brain.
“Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart,” write the authors of an article in the Harvard Medical School blog “Mind and Mood.”
The best type of fitness for your mind is any aerobic exercise that you can do regularly and consistently for at least 45 minutes at a time.
In the latest research, in order to assess the benefits of aerobic workouts on the brain, researchers studied hundreds of breast cancer survivors. They wanted to see if activities like walking and swimming could have any effect on “chemo brain,” which is a commonly-reported side effect of breast cancer treatment involving memory loss and difficulties focusing.
“The message for cancer patients and survivors is, get active!” said Diane Ehlers, the lead author on the study and a professor of exercise psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, in a statement.
Given that the study was only a week long, more research on cancer patients in particular is needed. Still, the evidence that aerobic workouts have a wide range of potential beneficial impacts on the brain is robust and growing.
A pilot study in people with severe depression found that just 30 minutes of treadmill walking for 10 consecutive days was “sufficient to produce a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in depression.” Aerobic workouts can also help people who aren’t suffering from clinical depression feel less stressed by helping to reduce levels of the body’s natural stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to a recent study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.
Researchers still aren’t sure why this type of exercise appears to provide a boost to the brain, but studies suggest it has to do with increased blood flow, which provides our minds with fresh energy and oxygen.