Regular exercise releases brain chemicals key for memory, concentration, and mental sharpness, from the May 2013 Harvard Men's Health Watch

Looking to stop "brain fog" or frequent bouts of forgetfulness? Exercise turns out to be an excellent way to protect and enhance brain health, according to the May 2013 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch. "There's a lot you can do to prevent cognitive decline, or slow it down, or recover memory function that you might feel you have lost," says Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. One key strategy is regular, moderately intense exercise. It helps maintain healthy blood pressure and weight, improves energy, lifts mood, lowers stress and anxiety, and keeps the heart healthy, all of which contribute to brain health. But exercise also stimulates brain regions that are involved in memory function to release a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF rewires memory circuits so they work better. "When you exercise and move around, you are using more brain cells," says Dr. Ratey, who is also the author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (2008). "Using more brain cells turns on genes to make more BDNF."
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