There are so many benefits to getting out and moving your body not only physically but we are also learning about the mental and cognitive benefits that can be wide reaching and can positively benefit a number of disorders. The biggest ones being keeping your waistline in check and your heart healthy, preventing diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other obesity related disorders but it has also now been widely studied and shown to to help prevent and in some cases reverse cognitive decline as you get older - for example reducing brain fog or when you forget what you were just about to say (which i'm pretty sure everyone over the age of 25 has been guilty of).
Exercise has been shown to change the way in which the brain responds so as to protect your memory and thinking skills. The University of British Columbia in Canada conducted one study that found that participating in regular aerobic type of exercise - such as walking, running, swimming, cycling - so basically anything that gets your heart rate up and body moving continuously, has been shown to significantly boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is involved with memory, learning and information retention. However, interestingly this study also showed that resistance training, muscle toning, flexibility and balance exercises such as pilates, yoga or weight training did not have the same effect.
Many studies in recent times have shown that people who exercise are happier and have less tendencies towards depression due to the endorphins that get released - the same ones that are released when you fall in love. The "Runners high" that you experience post exercise not only motivates and prepares your next exercise session so ensuring that you keep up those healthy habits, but helps to significantly reduces depression and stress levels, improve your sleep pattern and increase your quality of sleep. This then indirectly helps to improve your memory as all of the above factors have been linked to early onset cognitive decline and diseases such as dementia and alzheimer's disease.
The benefits of exercise can come directly through helping to reduce insulin resistance, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and thus reduce inflammatory markers in the body. Walking and other types of aerobic exercise also stimulate the release of Growth Factors that promote the health of brain cells, growth of new blood vessels and even the survival of new cells so ensuring that your brain stays at its healthiest for years to come.
So moral of the story - participating in aerobic exercise a few times a week - such as taking the dog for a walk or going for a run at the beach or in a park, combined with doing a few resistance training sessions a week is the perfect combination to not only keep your body in shape, preserve your muscle mass and keep your bones and heart healthy but also ensure that you keep your brain active for years to come.
If starting an exercise regime seems daunting to you or you don't know where to start, the best thing to do is just start. Everyone has to start somewhere and everyone was a beginner once so don't worry if you can't run the 5km the person on the treadmill next to you can - the main thing is that you are out getting active and getting started.