Physical Exercise For A Better Brain

physical-therapy-exercise-brainScience proves once again that if you want to improve your brain functioning then you gotta exercise.

In this most recent study (1) the participants were “older adults” – ages 65 to 76 or so.

The findings showed that all forms of physical activity done over the course of an 8 week period improved cognitive function.

The great news is you can do any kind of exercise and get the benefits of improved brain function! So if you prefer cardio… Go for it! Or if you want to do strength training that works too.

Here are the keys to any good exercise program:

1. Be Consistent. Whatever you decide to do be sure to do it regularly. Aim to do at least 3 exercise sessions per week EVERY week.

2. Challenge Yourself. Walking on a treadmill at 2 miles per hour while talking on the phone just won’t cut it. If you decide to do aerobic exercise you have to do it with enough intensity that it counts are exercise. Check out this video on how to gauge your exercise intensity.

3. Use Progression. Once you get good at your exercise program you’ll find that it gets easier. And that’s good! However when that happens you have to bump up the intensity to continue to challenge yourself. So increase your speed on the treadmill or bump up the incline. Pick up the next set of higher weight dumbbells or do some more repetitions. For more tips on ways to increase your exercise intensity check out this article.

Maybe this all sounds great… But perhaps you aren’t able to exercise because pain or injury are holding you back. If that’s the case then it’s time to do something about it!

Some common problems people over 50 experience that prevent them from being able to exercise are:

  • Joint Pain – Arthritis can cause pain and inflammation in nearly every joint of the human body. When it comes to limiting exercise the usual suspects include knee pain, hip pain, back pain and shoulder pain.
  • Balance Problems – As you age you may notice your balance is getting worse. Hearing loss and/or decreasing eyesight and/or joint pain and problems can all impair balance.
  • De-conditioning or Fatigue – If it has been a while since you’ve been involved in a regular exercise program you are probably pretty out of shape!
  • Muscle Aches – Similar to and probably related to joint problems.
  • Don’t-Know-What-To-Do-Itis – Starting an exercise program can feel overwhelming and you might be intimidated by the machines.

Here’s how physical therapy can help with each of these problems:

  • A Physical Therapist can help you get rid of and manage joint pain. Arthritis is generally a chronic problem – which simply means that if you are 50 or older it has probably been a problem for a while. If you decide to go to physical therapy be sure the clinic specializes in orthopedics and chronic pain.
  • Physical therapy is very effective in diagnosing and correcting balance problems. There’s a very easy to do assessment called the Berg Balance Test that a Physical Therapist can administer. This test can help identify problem areas that might contribute to your balance problems. Physical therapy sessions will then focus on treatments and exercises to correct these problems. Be sure your Physical Therapist has experience with Balance and Fall Prevention.
  • Some Physical Therapists are experts in exercise and conditioning programs. If you are de-conditioned and don’t know what to do (i.e. what exercises to do, how to use the machines, how to build an exercise program) a Physical Therapist with training in exercise therapy and conditioning can help.
  • Physical therapy can very effectively treat muscle pains and strains. We use a variety of techniques in my Arvada clinic to help people with acute and chronic muscle pain. This includes manual therapy (soft tissue work), electric stimulation, kinesiology taping techniques and therapeutic exercise.

If you live in or near Arvada and are interested in physical therapy – give us a call at 720.222.9669.


1. Nicolas Berryman, Louis Bherer, Sylvie Nadeau, Séléna Lauzière, Lora Lehr, Florian Bobeuf, Maxime Lussier, Marie Jeanne Kergoat, Thien Tuong Minh Vu, Laurent Bosquet. Multiple roads lead to Rome: combined high-intensity aerobic and strength training vs. gross motor activities leads to equivalent improvement in executive functions in a cohort of healthy older adults. AGE, 2014; 36 (5) DOI: 10.1007/s11357-014-9710-8

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