When we think about exercise, we usually think about the physical benefits: healthier hearts, stronger bones and the ability to enjoy our favorite activities. But there could also be important mental benefits that are just as vital to our overall health and wellness – especially in a time as stressful as the past year. In fact, even a small amount of movement may help brain function, which is wonderful news for those with impaired mobility due to injury or illness.
“Physical activity, whether it is a strenuous run or a light session of chair yoga, requires brain activity that establishes a mind-body connection,” said Victor Chang, M.D., market medical director at UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, who worked for many years in the specialty area of physical medicine and rehabilitation. “Exercise of any kind can also help restore the balance of certain chemicals in the brain that may boost a feeling of wellness and improve memory and motor function.”
The fact is, moving your body is good for your brain – and conversely, not moving your body may be harmful.
Studies have shown that people who are physically active have a lower risk of experiencing declining mental function and developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Physical movement might even spark creativity. A 2020 study found a positive correlation between creative thinking and every day, moderate physical activity, such as walking.
Want to boost your memory and mental health even more? Tap into the power of nature. Taking your workout outside – or simply strolling through a park – may further boost your brainpower. A study found that spending 120 minutes outdoors a week may benefit your overall health.
“Getting out of our homes for some fresh air and activity promotes a sense of well-being,” said Dr. Chang. “Moving our bodies increases our heart rate, which enhances circulation within the brain and helps to improve mood and cognition.”
Getting physically and mentally active has never been easier for eligible UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members, thanks to Renew ActiveTM. Renew Active is a great combo package to help people to get physically and mentally fit, all while being designed around personal goals for your mind and body, and it is available at no additional cost.
Renew Active provides standard access to participating national and local fitness locations to help you keep moving, once pandemic restrictions are eased. The program also features many engaging online brain games to help keep your brain active.
No matter your current health or fitness level, it’s important to simply keep moving. Any physical activity, no matter how small, is better for your mental health than none at all.
You know your body best, but it’s still smart to talk with your doctor before starting any new exercise programs. Plus, your doctor may have a few brain-boosting exercise ideas that are just right for you.
Participation in the Renew Active™ program is voluntary. Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine. Renew Active includes standard fitness membership. Equipment, classes, personalized fitness plans, caregiver access and events may vary by location. Certain services, classes and events are provided by Affiliates of UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or other third parties not affiliated with UnitedHealthcare. The information provided through these services is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a doctor. The Renew Active program varies by plan/area. Access to gym and fitness location network may vary by location and plan. Renew Active premium gym and fitness location network only available with certain plans.
Benefits, features and/or devices vary by plan/area. Limitations and exclusions apply.
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.