Feature Archive

The Brain Boosters: Part Two

See why exercising your mind and body not only boosts memory but helps you think fast.

WebMD Feature

In part one of this two-part series, we looked at pills and potions that promise to sharpen memory. In part two, we show why exercising your mind and body not only boosts memory but helps you think fast.

At Baylor College of Medicine, neurologist John Stirling Meyer is too busy to worry about whether his memory is as sharp as it once was.

At 73, Meyer directs a major research laboratory for cerebrovascular research, treats patients, and supervises scientific studies that involve more than 15,000 volunteers. When he's not writing groundbreaking scientific studies, he's swimming at the university pool or playing a round or two of golf. That whirl of activity, Meyer believes, is the single best prescription around for a sharp and healthy mind.

"People say, 'Use it or lose it' about the body," says Meyer. "The same advice goes for the brain." More and more research, in fact, shows that a combination of mental and physical activities can protect your memory and help keep you alert.

Physically Fit, Mentally Agile

Researchers have long known that the brain's processing speed gradually slows as we age. Between ages 25 and 55, we're likely to lose about 25% of our synapses, the connections that relay messages from neuron to neuron.

"With age, many people begin to experience problems coming up with names or numbers," says Meyer. "The memory is there. It just takes people longer to retrieve it."