I feel mentally sharper after losing weight.
In addition to its weight loss benefits, exercise may improve your memory as well. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and covered in this Wall Street Journal piece found that a year of modest aerobic exercise reversed normal brain shrinkage in older adults by one to two years and also improved memory function.
The study was conducted with 120 Americans between their late fifties and early eighties. Participants were split into two groups: the first walked for forty minutes three times a week and the second did yoga and various toning exercises.
The walkers showed the greatest improvement with in average increase in the size of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, of 2% compared with a decrease of 1.4% in the control group. Plus both of the study’s groups showed significant improvement on spatial memory tests.
One caveat, however, is the fact that exercise has a selective effect on the brain, affecting the volume of the anterior, but not the posterior, hippocampus. Still, getting outside for a walk can’t hurt. You could lose weight and slow the mental effects of aging all at the same time.