Remembrance capability is divided into long-term, short-term, and working memory. Long-term memory is an enormous collection of memories dating from the immediate to as far back as our brain can take us. Short-term memory keeps us functioning in the now and also decides what to store in the permanent category called long-term. Working memory is what we do with short-term memory to make decisions as to actions we need to take.1 In general, short-term evaporates first and have no doubts, it is our survival mode! Our working memory uses short-term to make decisions which cannot be correct with a limitation on available facts.
There is a plethora of scientific information documenting a positive correlation of physical fitness (over 4,600 articles in PubMed to be exact) with wellbeing’s security.─ TRIUMPH! Studies on the effect of remaining physically fit on memory show real benefits for cognition. Even better, the degree of fitness increased the enhancement of mental performance.2 Young males were tested for chemical factors that show increased motor function and physical abilities.3
Even more important as we age, is the preservation of the part of the brain that processes short-term memory and spatial relations, the hippocampus. It shrinks about as we age ─ OH NO! So, our short-term memory dwindles and it becomes easier to get lost. A small protein nerve growth factor (BDNF) keeps our brain cells operating better. Unfortunately, this brain health promoting factor decreases as we age.4
As mentioned earlier, a small but important portion of the brain labeled the hippocampi (hippo) allow us to function self-sufficiently. It keeps us out of nursing homes ─ GREAT. Our hippos in elder life shrink a few percentages yearly. A well-done study published in a reputable journal showed that adults who joined an exercise program increased their Hippo volumes erasing one to two years of shrinkage.5 In addition and just as important, they increased their levels of nerve growth factor (BDNF) which means less overall loss of brain cells from aging. This “brain cell preservation” factor is found to increase after exercise which keeps the mental squash intact.6 This stands for neuro= nerve trophic=promoting cellular growth, differentiation, and survival. WOW! That is important stuff.
The indisputable evidence showing the value of BDNF is from a study on several thousand subjects over 65 years that showed a correlation of blood levels with the chance of developing the dreaded Alzheimer’s Disease over a ten-year period. Higher levels of the valuable substance in normal subjects at the studies’ start had a 50% reduction. 7 Even more interesting, when subjects were started on moderate exercise programs three days a week and had their BDNF measured before and after twelve weeks, the post-exercise levels were significantly higher.8 There are many, many well-done studies verifying the value of physical fitness enhancing mental fitness. Before starting an exercise program, be advised to see your Doc if you have health problems, start slowly, and build up gradually.
1. Cowan N. What are the differences between long-term, short-term, and working memory? Progress in brain research 2008;169:323-38.
2. Maguire EA, Woollett K, Spiers HJ. London taxi drivers and bus drivers: a structural MRI and neuropsychological analysis. Hippocampus 2006;16:1091-101.
3. Skriver K, Roig M, Lundbye-Jensen J, et al. Acute exercise improves motor memory: exploring potential biomarkers. Neurobiology of learning and memory 2014;116:46-58.
4. Erickson KI, Prakash RS, Voss MW, et al. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is associated with age-related decline in hippocampal volume. The Journal of Neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2010;30:5368-75.
5. Erickson KI, Prakash RS, Voss MW, et al. Aerobic fitness is associated with hippocampal volume in elderly humans. Hippocampus 2009;19:1030-9.
6. Sleiman SF, Henry J, Al-Haddad R, et al. Exercise promotes the expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through the action of the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate. eLife 2016;5.
7. Weinstein G, Seshadri S. Circulating biomarkers that predict incident dementia. Alzheimer’s research & therapy 2014;6:6.
8. Kim HJ, Song BK, So B, Lee O, Song W, Kim Y. Increase of circulating BDNF levels and its relation to improvement of physical fitness following 12 weeks of combined exercise in chronic patients with schizophrenia: a pilot study. Psychiatry research 2014;220:792-6.