How Exercise Can Improve Memory

How Exercise Can Improve Memory

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The myriad positive effects of exercise on general health and wellbeing have been well and widely documented over the years. From higher levels of happiness to lowered risk of disease, it’s no secret that exercise is one of the keys to a healthier life. And researchers are now finding positive links between exercise and memory function.

The best bit? According to studies, even relatively short, moderate bursts of exercise may improve memory function in the long run.

A study by UCI researchers Sabrina Segal, Carl Cotman, and Lawrence Cahill, shows promising results for the short-term impact of exercise on memory. The study took a group of 50-80 year olds, consisting of people with and without memory deficits, and presented them with a series of pleasant images. The participants then spent 6 minutes exercising on stationary bikes at 70% of their maximum capacity. An hour later the group was asked, without prior warning, to recall the images they’d seen earlier. The results displayed a “striking enhancement” of memory in both healthy and cognitively impaired participants.

Sabrina Segal said of the study, “We found that a single, short instance of moderately intense exercise particularly improved memory in individuals with memory deficits.”

These results are consolidated by more recent findings from researchers at UCI and the University of Tsukuba in Japan ( The good news is that their work indicates that it could be even easier for us to reap the cognitive rewards of exercise. According to the study, which consisted of 36 healthy young participants, just ten minutes of mild exertion can be beneficial to brain health. The researchers observed that shortly after exercising, there was greater connectivity between the hippocampal dentate gyrus and cortical areas (linked to detailed memory processing) of participants’ brains.

The project co-leader, Michael Yassa of UCI, said, “The hippocampus is critical for the creation of new memories; it’s one of the first regions of the brain to deteriorate as we get older – and much more severely in Alzheimer’s disease [. . .] Improving the function of the hippocampus holds much promise for improving memory in everyday settings.”

According to Yassa, even short walks may be effective in improving memory and cognition. And other forms of light exercise, such as yoga and tai chi, may also fit the bill for memory enhancement.

One study in particular, conducted by researchers of the University of Columbia, compared the cognitive effects of exercise in two groups of mice. The difference between the two groups was that one was given access to running wheels whilst the other wasn’t. The mice with the running wheels (as you can probably imagine) ran, whereas the others didn’t. The results were that after several weeks the brains of the running mice showed more evidence of new brain cells and increased blood flow in the memory-related brain area.

Studies like these are very encouraging, empowering us to take control of our health and wellbeing and keep ourselves in good shape well into old age.

For more on the many wonders of exercise, see 4 Great Benefits Of Running, Top 5 Health Benefits Of Regular Exercise, and Yin Yoga: A Slow Practise To Reduce Stress And Increase Flexibility.

Practicing Self-Compassion To Achieve Your Goals

Practicing Self-Compassion To Achieve Your Goals

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It’s a new year, and that means resolutions. Those solemn vows we take in order to get fit, get healthy, and shed bad habits. But one of the problems with resolutions is our tendency to become overly self-critical as we work towards fulfilling them.

Most of us, when dieting or embarking on new fitness regimes, opt for the black-and-white approach of success vs failure. We create punishing routines, and any deviation from our proposed path of progress results in endless loops of self-criticism and disappointment.

But this approach isn’t really helpful, and it certainly isn’t optimal. According to Laurie Santos — Professor of Psychology at Yale University, and host of the Happiness Lab podcastthe best way to kick bad habits and make real progress on our goals is to simply be kind to ourselves.


By using self-compassion instead of self-loathing, we can gently encourage ourselves back on track rather than ruminating on our perceived failures.

It’s not to say that self-criticism is bad. It’s no bad thing, for example, to feel guilty when we do something that’s objectively wrong, because guilt can help us learn from our mistakes. But it’s when we internalise the criticism, and direct it towards our actual being and personality, that it becomes a problem.

Believing you’re an inherently bad person because you ate a mince pie when you were supposed to be dieting isn’t going to do you any favours. Those kind of beliefs fill us with shame and can be severely demotivating. A better approach is to be understanding and forgiving, just as you would be towards a friend or family member. We’re all human, after all, and humans aren’t perfect. 

The problem with the way most of us approach our goals, and especially our new year’s resolutions, is that we measure our progress based on self-esteem, which arises out of opinions and beliefs. But self-esteem is contingent on success. Which means that when we experience a failure or setback, our self-esteem crashes and we immediately feel bad about ourselves.

Self-compassion, on the other hand, isn’t contingent on anything. It doesn’t require success in order to function. It’s just about being kind to yourself, no matter what the result.

But that’s not the same as positive thinking. It’s not the unrelenting insistence that we’re amazing despite our shortcomings. It’s simply accepting our own humanness, and cultivating a feeling of kindness towards ourselves and our efforts.

And the reality may in fact be that when we treat ourselves with kindness, we’re more likely to achieve our goals.


It’s also important to remember that when we set intentions and make resolutions it’s usually because we want to improve some aspect of our lives. And the desire to improve and better ourselves should be celebrated, not berated. 

So this year, try practising more self-compassion. Don’t be angry at yourself if you fall short of your goals. Or if your progress is slower than you’d hoped. Be thankful to yourself for putting in the effort, and encourage yourself to keep going — just as you would encourage anyone else.

How To Motivate Yourself To Workout At Home

How To Motivate Yourself To Workout At Home

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With a second nation-wide lockdown now underway, many of us are once again focussing on how to stay fit, healthy, and happy whilst confined to our homes.

And whilst some people have always preferred home-based exercise regimes, others don’t find it quite as easy to stay motivated and positive inside their own four walls. 

So for anyone out there struggling to hit the home gym, we’ve got a few tips to help keep you motivated and energised, no matter if you’re working out from your bedroom, kitchen, or bathroom…

Commit to live-stream classes

Coronavirus or not, the internet offers a plethora of live online exercise classes to replicate the experience of being in a studio or gym.

One of the major benefits to live-stream classes is that they provide us with a routine and a sense of accountability and commitment. It’s easy enough to put-off pre-recorded workout videos and tell ourselves “I’ll get around to that later”, but with a scheduled live class (that you may have also paid for) it’s not so easy.

After all, it takes a much stronger excuse to skip a class than a YouTube video.

And there’s really no end to the amount of live-stream classes currently available, but for a quick start why not take a look at our current online class schedule here at Jesmond Pool.

Set achievable goals

Of course, it’s all about the goals. But the key to keeping motivated at home is to go easy on ourselves.

At times it can be a real challenge to keep our spirits up and push ourselves to exercise when we’re stuck in the house. For many of us, our homes simply don’t serve as a conducive environment to working out. But setting small goals can really make a big difference to our overall efforts and attitudes.

It might simply be to take part in one live-stream class every other day. Or maybe one of your goals could be to follow along with a short workout video every morning after waking up.

Whatever they are, our goals should be challenging, but they should also feel achievable enough that we’re actually motivated to pursue them.

Maybe, in the end, when you’re stuck at home and aren’t able to go to the gym, you’re exercise routine might become a little less intense. Because it’s not always as easy to workout for hours at a time when the only place you can do it is your bedroom.

But by being kind to ourselves, and by being a little more flexible with our expectations and desires, we can still keep fit and feel great no matter where we are.

So if your normal routine involves treadmills and rowing machines, but you don’t have those things at home, then allow yourself some wiggle room and come to feel ok with chasing some new goals for a while.

Get the right gear 

That said, whilst we don’t all have room for treadmills and stationary bikes at home, there are lots of bits and pieces we can get hold of to make our houses more gym-like.

Things like dumbbells, yoga mats, and skipping ropes can really help to liven things up and keep our workouts from getting too repetitive. They also won’t take up too much room and, more importantly, won’t break the bank.

If you’re interested in this side of things, then we’ve got a separate post dedicated to setting up a budget home gym which you can read here.

Try something new

When our regular routines are shaken and disturbed, we’re faced with a rare and exciting opportunity to try something completely new.

As we all know, old habits die hard, and when it comes to exercise it’s very easy to get locked into a routine. And though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (in fact, in many cases it’s a good thing), in times of turbulence we can use the chaos and uncertainty to our advantage by diving into something new.

Always wanted to try yoga but were too afraid to join a class? Ever fancied an early morning HIIT session but could never make it to the class on time? Now’s the time to do it!

Often when we try new things we tend to put less pressure on ourselves to perform. Which means there’s fantastic scope for fun and enjoyment in being a beginner.

Who knows. Online dance classes might become your new obsession.

Stay happy and healthy at home

For more on exercising from home, take a look at these 5 home exercises for swimmers, these 6 child-friendly workout videos to get the kids moving, or for an extra mental boost you can always have a read of these 20 motivational fitness quotes.

The Importance Of Hydration

The Importance Of Hydration

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We all know that our bodies need water to survive, and that proper hydration is crucial if we want to live happy and healthy lives.

Throughout the day we’re constantly losing water — through breathing, going to the bathroom, and sweating. So it’s important to make sure that we keep ourselves topped up so as to avoid dehydration. And according to the Eatwell Guide, we should consume 6-8 cups of fluids every day (which includes tea and coffee).

But we may need to drink even more if we’re planning on exercising. According to WebMD we should ideally consume a total 680-887ml of water (over a period of several hours) before even starting a workout. Which may be important considering that the side effects of dehydration during exercise may include dizziness, lethargy, and cramp. None of which are ideal if we want to stay strong, improve our physical health, and keep motivated.

Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to know whether or not we’re consuming enough water. But a simple enough method of checking your hydration levels is to check your urine. The general rule is that if it’s clear or light yellow, you’re well hydrated; if it’s dark yellow or amber in colour, you might de dehydrated.

And though the Eatwell guide states that other fluids (such as tea, coffee, and sugar-free drinks) can work perfectly well for keeping us hydrated, water is still considered to be the best by most.

Sports drinks

Sports drinks are the obvious go-to for many when it comes to keeping hydrated during exercising. These types of beverages, which contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, can be great options for longer periods of intense exercise. Because we lose electrolytes through sweat, and sports drinks can help the body to replenish them at an adequate rate.

We can become dehydrated alarming quickly through exercise, so it’s important to keep our fluid levels up. And sports drinks are, of course, one way of doing this.

But generally speaking, keeping well hydrated can be extremely beneficial for our exercise regimes. Proper hydration can help the heart to pump nutrients and oxygen to the muscles we’re working. And the result of this is that we’l feel far more energetic and active, which might even allow us to exercise more!

Of course, all this being said, it is possible to drink too much water. But this is a rare occurrence, and by following reasonable and well-established hydration guidelines most people should be fine. Just remember never to overdo it. A simple rule is to keep a bottle of water handy at all times, and if you feel thirsty, take a drink.

So, of course, proper hydration can drastically improve your athletic performance. And not only is it good for your health, but it might just help you achieve some new personal bests in the gym!

For more on keeping fit and healthy, why not take a look at our post on the benefits of walking.