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Exercise and Memory

With a new year, many of us are making resolutions that involve more exercise to help us get into better physical shape, lose weight, lower our risk of disease and more.

But what we may not think of is the positive effect exercise has on our brains.

Scientists already know from lab experiments that rats that spend a lot of time running in exercise wheels have better brain development than those that lie around all the time. Their brains do not show as much shrinkage with age as the inactive rats.

The effects of exercise are most noticeable on those areas of the brain that are often associated with memory functions and reasoning, such as the hippocampus and areas of the frontal and parietal lobes. In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise appears to increase the size of the hippocampus.

Exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.

It helps the neurons in the brain communicate more effectively, and works to create new neural pathways and prevent the degradation of established ones. It also reduces insulin resistance and inflammation, and stimulates the release of growth factors, chemicals that affect the health of brain cells and the growth of new blood vessels in the brain.

It turns out that exercise affects canine and human brains in the very same way.jogging with your dog

Simply taking your dog for a brisk walk or light jog is good for both of your brains because it increases blood circulation and the oxygen and glucose that reach the brain tissue. And this type of activity is not so strenuous that will cause muscles to steal the extra oxygen. Swimming is another moderate intensity exercise that not only benefits the brain but the whole body as well.


Why is this important?

Because if you want to offset the mental declines that we normally expect as dogs age, or even if you have a senior dog who is beginning to show signs of memory loss, an easy way to slow the deterioration of his mind and perhaps offset the effects of aging, just involves going for a walk. The more frequently you walk and the longer the walks, the slower the mental decline will be.

Don’t walk the same route every day; instead vary the places you walk.

Research suggests that brain benefits more from a variety in your routine. Repetition doesn’t stimulate brain growth in the same way as learning or doing something new.

With the New Year upon us, now is the perfect time to get serious about getting your dog into an exercise program. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win for both you and your dog.