Exercise can enhance cognitive abilities and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression and general cognitive decline.
Whether you want to improve your memory, enhance your problem solving abilities, reduce your risk of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, or bend metal and shoot lasers with your mind – exercise has an important role to play in all but two of those activities. In particular, richer exercise regimens – regimens consisting of aerobic and resistance training methods, produce the greatest overall improvements in cognitive performance. Note, however, working out for sixteen hours each day won’t turn you into the next Stephen Hawking. There are diminishing returns, and the favorable cerebral environment promoted by exercise is only as good as the active learning that accompanies it.
A quick word before diving deeper: for most fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, athletes etc. it is enough to know that certain actions can, with some degree of reliability, produce certain reactions. E.g. I want to improve my cardiovascular health, so I go swimming and my cardiovascular health improves. Or, I want to put on muscle mass, (simplifying out the nutrition and lifestyle aspects) so I pick up and put down heavy things repeatedly. We have confidence that these activities will produce results without referencing the underlying cellular and chemical processes. That said, compared to our understanding of exercise’s impact on cardiovascular health and general fitness, our understanding of exercise’s impact on cognitive health is still very much in its infancy. Despite very compelling research up to this point, the cause and effect relationships which seem so obvious in other areas still seem almost farcical in relation to the mind (bro, I’m gonna go exercise and get hella smart bro). In order to establish and popularize a tighter framework then, and not only because these systems are wildly interesting (caveat: the author’s opinion may or may not be a representative sample), we’ll cover these systems in some technical (but by no means extensive) detail. With that in mind, if the text starts to read like hieroglyphics, feel free to scan ahead to the summary figures or play around with the suggested workouts.