With the vigor of a used car salesman and the perspicacity of an old professor, I would like to sell you on the benefits of exercise beyond improved physical fitness.

Numerous studies in recent years have shown the incredible benefit that regular exercise can have on memory, sleep, pain reduction, reduced anxiety and depression, improved creativity and overall improved brain function.

I would like to encourage you to kick the dusty scale aside and start embracing exercise for all its other tremendous benefits. Let me walk you through a few stages of life and point out some of the significant impacts that can be experienced from embracing exercise.

For starters, the diagnosis rate of depression, behavioral disorders, and ADHD in kids has demonstrated an upward trend over the last several years. Research is showing reduced disruptive behavior in children who participate in 30-40 minutes of aerobic exercises at least two times per week.

The challenge at this age lies in finding ways to engage young minds in exercise for that time period. One of the studies noted using a combination of bicycling with an interactive video game, so getting creative may be necessary.

In high school and college-aged individuals, studies show that exercise can improve performance on exams, presentations, interviews and creative projects.

Studies in adults show exercise causes an increased size of the hippocampus, an important structure in the brain that is involved in memory formation and long-term memory storage.

Additionally, in the short term, you are more likely to remember information that is obtained while doing light aerobic exercise. Much like children, adults also demonstrate reduced rates of depression and anxiety if they participate in aerobic exercise.

Finally, contrary to popular belief, exercise actually boosts your overall energy level after you get through the initial phase of adapting to a new exercise routine.

Last but not least, exercise is particularly important and beneficial for seniors. Exercise has been shown to slow cognitive decline in those who are starting to show signs of memory loss.

It should be noted there has not been conclusive evidence if this is still the case in later stages of dementia. Additionally, aerobic exercise does lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. If memory decline is not a concern, it is still good to keep in mind that exercise will enhance your memory function and ability to complete complex mental tasks.

I hope these benefits have inspired you to stay active for more reasons than just a scale or mirror can provide.

Your brain will thank you as you age.

Andrea Ancel is a physical therapist at Northern Michigan Sports Medicine Center in Petoskey and Harbor Springs. She may be reached via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This information is not to be considered medical advice and is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical professional.