A wealth of research supports the finding that regular exercise is linked to brain health, and some studies suggest that aerobic exercise can even improve memory. However, much of this research has been conducted on animals, not humans (like this 2013 study, for example). Until recently, less was known about what precisely occurs in the human brain to trigger this process.
A study published last year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease used neuroimaging to look for changes in the brain after a year of aerobic exercise. Thirty individuals with memory problems participated in the study. Half of the participants completed an aerobic exercise program over the course of a year, while the other half only stretched. The aerobic exercise group started out with 3 training sessions a week for 25 to 30 minutes each, gradually increasing the frequency and intensity. By the end of the study, participants in the exercise group were working out 4 to 5 times per week for 30 to 40 minutes each.
The individuals who exercised regularly for a year improved their memory scores by a staggering 47 percent. The stretching group saw only minimal changes.
Neuroimaging of the brain, taken at the beginning and end of the study, showed increased blood flow to the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus among the exercise group. Both of these regions of the brain are essential to memory function.
According to Dr. Binu Thomas, lead researcher on the study, these findings demonstrate the importance of exercise in order to improve cognitive function. “We’ve shown that even when your memory starts to fade, you can still do something about it by adding aerobic exercise to your lifestyle,” Thomas explains.
Offer employees a fitness benefit to keep the team performing their best.
Employers who offer a fitness benefit are investing in the future of their company by keeping their employees cognitively sharp, happy, and healthy. Keep in mind that any and all aerobic exercise is beneficial for cognitive functioning. Researchers in the present study allowed participants in the exercise group to perform any aerobic exercise they wished, as long as they maintained the prescribed frequency and intensity.
The bottom line is that it does not matter what type of exercise we do, as long as we do it frequently and get the blood pumping. Since everyone enjoys exercise differently, consider a fitness benefit that gives employees the freedom to choose. The same gym is not going to work for everyone, which can result in a lack of employee engagement. A fitness benefit that offers a variety of options—from virtual classes, to audio workouts, to gym access—is sure to keep employees engaged and healthy.
To learn more about Zeamo, the most flexible fitness benefit on the market, click here.