The Most Important Principles for Staying Young: Exercise Increases Brain Game Benefits

11 Jan

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing.  You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do.  In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the quality and length of your life.

We’ve previously discussed how physical activity can increase the one organ in your body where size matters: your hippocampus.  Yes, when it comes to your hippocampus—the memory relay station in your brain—size matters.  The larger your hippocampus, the better your memory, and the lower your risk for developing dementia later in life.

Not long ago, a study found that doing 18 hours of Speed of Processing Brain Games (see AARP for a very low-cost version) over the course of a decade decreased the dementia risk for 73 to 83 year olds by nearly 50 percent.

A study from scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, tested what these two activities—brain training and exercise training—did when combined. To find out, the research team studied a group of healthy, young college students—people expected to have good memories. The researchers hypothesized that if a program resulted in better cognitive function in people with good memories, it should also benefit those whose memories might be worrisome.

The investigators randomly assigned each of the 95 participants to one of three groups. The first group participated in 20 minutes of supervised, high-intensity interval training on stationary bicycles.  The second group did the same cycling program but with the addition of 20 minutes of computerized brain training before or after their workouts. Finally, the last group continued their normal lives and served as a control group.

In general, those who exercised—as would be expected based on prior data—performed better on memory tests than individuals in the control group. The researchers also observed that the benefits were greater among the volunteers whose fitness levels had improved the most, especially if they also practiced brain training.  And to address the purpose of the experiment, the participants in the combined exercise and brain training group experienced the greatest memory enhancements and the results appeared to be more than just additive.

So the take home message for all of us who want to keep our brain in tip top shape is to do both: move your body on a regular basis and work your brain with Speed of Processing games.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions to:

Dr. Mike Roizen


PS: Please continue to order the new book by Jean Chatzky and myself, AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip.


NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice.

This article is of the opinion of its author.

Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.

You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week).  The YOU docs have two newly revised books: The patron saint “book” of this column YOU Staying Young—revised and YOU: The Owner’s Manual…revised —yes a revision of the book that started Dr Oz to being Dr OzThese makes great gifts—so do YOU: ON a Diet and YOU: The Owner’s Manual for teens.  

Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

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