How Exercise can improve Cognitive Changes

Cognitive changes from cancer treatment can have an impact on your mental and physical health. This is can be caused by not being able to do the things you used to be able to do with ease. One way to manage your mental health and fight through cognitive changes is with exercise!

Exercise has been shown to combat your fatigue, improve your mood, reduce your anxiety and depression, and improve your overall physical well-being. While  regular exercise has been known to improve cognition or your ability to think and reason. 

All of these benefits are created when your blood flow increases to the brain, as you exercise. An increase in blood flow is not only extremely beneficial, it is essential. The blood flow delivers all the nutrients required to carry out the brain’s job. Receiving approximately 15% of the body’s entire supply of blood – despite being only 2-3% of our body’s total mass.

Nervous tissues found in the brain need a constant supply of oxygen to function and survive. They are responsible for coordinating and controlling many body activities like emotions, memories. The cells in nervous tissue that generate and conduct impulses are called neurons, which will become more active when exercising.

This supports the development of new neurons by increasing the growth of new blood vessels. These new blood vessels improve the health and function of your brain by ensuring adequate blood supply is consistent.

But don't panic if you are struggling with exercise, as there are many types of exercise and movements that can have the same impact. Check out my list below. 

Try these tips below

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 chemo brain. 

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