Start your morning with a great workout – your brain will thank you for it
10/16/2019 // Darnel Fernandez // Views

A healthy body and a healthy mind often go hand in hand. New research suggests that older adults can maintain good brain health by exercising early in the day.

This study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, found that morning exercises mitigate the impact of prolonged sitting on brain blood flow in overweight or obese older adults. This suggests that exercise should be part of one's daily routine to help prevent the slowing down of brain blood circulation associated with aging.

“This is the first study to measure the combined effects of an exercise bout with active breaks in sitting on cerebral blood velocity in older adults,” said the lead researcher Michael Wheeler in a statement.

Get active early in the day

Previous research has established that excessive sitting can lead to a variety of health conditions, such as reducing blood flow throughout the body. A report from Harvard Medical School claimed that more sitting and less physical activity can lead to an increased risk of developing dementia. This study, however, aimed to measure the combined effects of exercise and sedentary behavior sessions on brain blood circulation.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia, in collaboration with the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, studied 12 men and women aged 55 to 80 in three laboratory sessions.

For the first session, participants were asked to sit uninterrupted for eight hours. The second involved volunteers walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes at moderate intensity followed by 6.5 hours of sitting. Finally, the last session had participants do a routine similar to the previous session but with three minutes of light-intensity treadmill walking interrupting the sitting time every 30 minutes.


The team measured blood pressure, heart rate and blood flow to the middle cerebral artery (MCA) – one of the main arteries responsible for blood flow toward the uppermost section of the brain. These measurements were done before the participants sat in the morning and during long sitting periods.

The results showed that blood flow is at its peak during the beginning of the day. From morning until lunchtime, this blood flow saw a drop of about 20 percent when participants are exposed to excessive sitting. However, in both exercise trials, participants saw an increase in blood flow during the afternoon.

"We demonstrated that prolonged sitting is associated with a pattern of decline across the day, however, when participants performed a morning bout of exercise with or without subsequent breaks in sitting, cerebral blood velocity improved in the afternoon several hours after exercise," said Wheeler.

The researchers suggest that individuals should find the time to take short exercise breaks between long bouts of sitting to help improve brain health.

"Our findings provide further supportive evidence that uninterrupted sitting should be avoided, and moderate-intensity exercise should be encouraged for the daily maintenance of cerebral blood flow,” said Wheeler.

Take control and boost your brainpower

Healthy blood flow is essential for optimal brain function and proper mental health. As previously mentioned, poor brain circulation can cause many health concerns like poor cognitive function. Here are a few ways to boost your brainpower. (Related: Improve brain circulation and cognitive abilities with natural compounds.)

  1. Cold exposure. Cold water can increase brain circulation. Research shows that immersing your hands or feet in cold water for a few minutes can help increase blood flow to the brain.
  2. Eat certain foods. Adding certain foods to your diet can improve brain health. Beets, for example, are packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation and increase cognitive function.
  3. Ginseng. Ginseng, in particular, can be a powerful natural supplement for brain health. Studies have shown that ginseng has neuroprotective effects due to its ability to protect neurons and improve cerebral blood flow.

If you're interested in looking for additional ways to improve your cognitive function, visit

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