How Exercise can improve Cognitive Changes

Your mental and physical health can be affected by cognitive changes caused by cancer treatment. It can be caused by not being able to enjoy activities that you used to enjoy doing. Exercise can help manage your mental health and fight cognitive changes. It has been proven that regular exercise improves physical and mental well-being, combats fatigue, improves mood, reduces anxiety, and reduces depression. 

Exercise increases your blood flow

When you exercise, you increase your brain's blood flow, resulting in all of the benefits above. This is not just extremely beneficial, but it is absolutely essential that there is an increase in blood flow. Blood flow carries all the nutrients necessary for the brain to function. Our brain receives approximately 15% of our body's blood supply despite making up only 2-3% of our body's weight.

Increasing your blood flow increases the delivery of oxygen through the blood to your tissues, which the brain needs continuously in order to function and survive. One example is neurons (nervous tissue cells) which are responsible for coordinating and controlling many body functions such as emotions and memory. The neurons in nervous tissue produce and conduct impulses, which become more active during exercise. This promotes the growth of new blood vessels, which in turn improves the health and function of the brain by ensuring an adequate blood supply.

If you are struggling with exercise, don't panic; there are many types of movement and exercises that can also have the same effect on your health. Here's my list. 

Exercising the Brain 

  • During treatment you may become too ill to do much. Resting all the time can make you feel like you are not living life, but learning something new can help boost your positivity. 
  • Try learning a new language, or taking an online class, are great ways to do this. By doing this your brain builds new cells and strengthens connections between the cells.
  • Puzzles and doing something creative are fun ways to improve cognitive changes.

Regular Exercise

  • Can result in being able to sleep better and stay asleep for longer, which will improve chemo brain drastically. 
  • Always exercise on a Monday. This sets the psychological pattern for the week.
  • Exercise with a friend to help give you a boost. 
  • Find sports or activities that you enjoy, then vary the routine to keep it interesting.
  • Look for online videos of many types of exercise classes, or yoga.
Quick Exercise
  • Quick bursts of movement are great if your stress is making you feel jittery or like your heart is beating faster than normal.
  • Try star jumps, jogging on the spot or yoga poses for when you are not feeling well.
  • Take 10 minutes to breathe and stretch in anyway that feels good to you. 
  • This will relax your breathing and help the mind focus on stretching instead of any  worries you may have. 
Simple Exercises 
  • Tai Chi (an exercise that uses slow movements and deep breathing)
  • Walking 
  • Light Housework
  • Playing catch 
  • Yoga 


If you are struggling with exercise check out our blog on simple exercises for more help - How to Improve your Physical Health

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