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Aerobic Exercise and Mental Performance

We all know that stretching and toning are certainly important, but their benefits are different from that of aerobic exercise. Surprisingly, aerobic exercise isn't just beneficial to your heart, it also sharpens your mind.

You don't have to be a jock to enjoy the brain benefits of aerobic exercise. Moderate aerobic exercise is plenty. Several studies involving older adults demonstrated that simply walking a mile or so three times a week increases blood flow in the brain and strengthens connections between neurons, resulting in improved mental performance on tasks requiring attention.

One of the studies divided a group of seniors into two different six-month exercise courses--one course consisting of aerobic exercise, the other consisting of stretching and toning. Again, we're not talking about marathon-training here. The aerobic-training course gradually built its participants up to walking 45 minutes at a moderate pace three times a week.

At the end of the course, the people who completed the aerobic training showed significant improvements in attention-related mental tasks. The stretching and toning group showed little improvement.

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