Exercising in Midlife may Improve Brain Function Later in Life

Woman in warrior 2 pose on a yoga mat

Being physically active in midlife could improve your brain function decades from now. In fact, exercising in your mid-30s to mid-40s can reduce your risk of stroke and help you avoid or minimize age-related declines in cognition – including the ability to think, reason, remember and process information.

Here’s what the science tells us about physical fitness and brain health in midlife:

  • Poor fitness level in midlife is linked to a smaller brain at age 60.
  • Aerobically fit older brains think like young brains.
  • Light resistance training slows age-related changes in the brain.
  • Lack of physical activity may be a stronger predictor of cognitive problems over the years than obesity or high blood pressure.
  • Declining memory and cognitive ability in midlife may increase the risk of stroke in adults after age 65.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your mind sharp at any age:

Aerobic exercise as well as weight and resistance training contribute to a healthy brain throughout your life. This means that the type of activity you do isn’t as important as being active. Choose what you enjoy and stick with it. Your brain will thank you. Everyone can be confused or forgetful. With good brain health, you can keep these moments in the “normal” range instead of “problem” range.

For clear health benefits, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association recommend adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of those activities). In addition, two days per week of moderate- to- high intensity muscle strengthening activity is recommended. We have resources to help you adopt and maintain healthy behaviors to keep your brain sharp and healthy, which could lead to more independence as you age.