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4 Simple Rules to Shape Up Your Memory

The latest research shows that all of us can pump up our brainpower by exercising regularly

En español l Rarely do you find neuroscientists, psychologists and physicians agreeing unequivocally on anything. But here's an exception: They all say that exercise is hands down the single best thing you can do for your brain.

"If we had a pill that could do what exercise does, its sales would put Viagra's to shame," says Laura L. Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity and author of A Long Bright Future.

Smiling couple jogging on path, Exercise helps brain health

Stay fit to keep your brain healthy. — VStock LLC/Tanya Constantine/Tetra images RF/Getty Images

Aerobic exercise "keeps cognitive abilities sharp and slashes your lifetime risk of Alzheimer's in half," says John Medina, an affiliate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and author of Brain Rules.

How is this possible? Scientists think exercise boosts the flow of blood to certain parts of the brain, spurring the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a brain chemical scientists have dubbed Miracle-Gro for the mind. BDNF stimulates the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, the area involved in memory, learning and the ability to plan and make decisions. At the same time, the substance repairs cell damage and strengthens synapses, or the connections between brain cells.

Exercise also dials down stress, reduces the risk of stroke, helps control blood sugar and reduces the chances of falling by improving balance and coordination.

So if you're worried that your memory is fading as fast as your tennis game, it's time to get moving. For the greatest brain benefit, follow these four simple rules.

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LAUGH OUT LOUD: Cartoonist and animator Walt Handelsman takes a hilarious look at middle-age forgetfulness.

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