Exercise for Fitness and Brain Health

Exercise can reduce emotional and physical stressDo exercise daily to improve fitness

  • Are you physically fit?
  • Can you get up from a chair without using your arms?
  • Can you walk up a flight of stairs to the second storey without needing to rest?

You need to develop enough flexibility, muscle strength and stamina, along with cardio-respiratory fitness to meet the everyday demands of your life with some to spare.

How often should I exercise?

Exercise should happen every day.

See the table below:

Cardiorespiratory Strength Flexibility
Benefit Supports the heart and lungs feeding oxygen to the body especially the brain Enables muscles to work harder and longer without fatigue Allows free movement reducing the risk in injury
Type of Activity Aerobic activity that uses large-muscle groups and can be maintained continuously Resistance activity that is performed at a controlled speed and through a full range of motion Stretching activity that uses the major muscle groups
Frequency 3 to 5 days per week 2 to 3 days per week 2 to 7 days per week


Intensity 55 to 90% of maximum heart rate Enough to enhance muscle strength and improve body composition Enough to develop and maintain a full range of motion
Duration 20 to 60 minutes 8 to 12 repetitions of 8 to 10 different exercises (minimum) 2 to 4 repetitions of 15 to 30 seconds per muscle group
Examples Running, cycling, swimming, power walking, cross-country skiing, jumping rope; playing – basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball Pull-ups, push-ups, weight-lifting, Pilates, gardening, heavy housework Yoga, Tai Chi, Ballet, Qi Gong
Source: Adapted from Whitney, E., & Rolfes, S. R. (2008) Understanding Nutrition (11th edn). Wadsworth, CA.

Is forgetfulness your problem?

Then exercise may help by delivering more oxygen to the brain. In fact exercise can assist with sleep, mood, self-image, improve body composition by increasing lean tissue, normalise glucose tolerance by developing muscle mass, and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, gall bladder disease in women, and some types of cancers. Fitness enhances immunity and extends the length and quality of life in later years.

My life is broken down into segments

My life is broken down into segments

So seriously consider what you are doing and compare it with the above table. Just remember that impact exercise is needed to improve bone density so if you are only cycling or swimming then think about going for a walk as well.

Variety in exercise is just as important as variety in diet.

Every day be as active as possible – use stairs, scrub floors and windows, tend your garden by growing your own chemical free fruit and vegetables, play with children, play sport, walk the dog, walk at lunchtime or to and from work if possible. If you have a walking machine or exercise bike, put them in front of the TV and everyone in the house has to do ½ an hour a night, minimum. Your children learn what to do from what you do. So if you do little to no exercise, then odds on, neither will your children. Exercise is an important coping mechanism and it helps empty your ‘stress pot’.