Running Keeps Our Minds Nimble


Nimble: marked by quick, alert, clever conception

I would love to be able to write a post about how nimble I am as a runner, how light I am on my feet, how easily I hop over obstacles. Except that’s not me. Good thing there’s another definition of nimble.

If I’ve got food and water, as long as I can exercise my mind and keep it nimble, then I’ll be okay. — Rob Walton

Want to keep that brain running?
Then maybe it’s time to take up running. After watching my inlaws and my parents age, with various problems, I’ll admit that being on the other side of 50 can seem rather scary. Add in a little postmenopausal forgetfulness, and it’s little wonder that I can be concerned about the future.

I’m not a medical professional, but it does seem like study after study shows that keeping fit as we age also keeps our mind nimble.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association:

Regular physical exercise may be a beneficial strategy to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Exercise may directly benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow in the brain Because of its known cardiovascular benefits, a medically approved exercise program is a valuable part of any overall wellness plan.
(read the full article here)

I’m convinced — how much do I need to do?
Again, I’m not a doctor, a nurse, a certified trainer — you get the picture. And the recommendations seem to vary from a mere 120 minutes of sweating a week up to maybe 450.

I would argue, though that to keep your brain nimble, anything is better than nothing. Walking is better than sitting. Something that makes you sweat more than a brisk walk might be even better. Of course I think running — when not taken to extremes (and I’m sure my husband and I might argue over just what “taken to extremes” might mean) — is a great form of exercise, but it’s not the only form of exercise that will help you preserve that gray matter as you age.

According to the Harvard Health Blog:

Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t.
(read the full post here)

Again, I know that I’m preaching to the choir here. I’m glad that something that can make me feel so good — at least sometimes — that almost always allows me to come back feeling better than when I left — will also help me keep my brain nimble as I age.

I may not be able to jump over a candlestick (I am in awe of hurdlers), but I find comfort in the fact that simply getting out there and working up a sweat can keep my mind nimble — even though sometimes it feels like I’m losing it!

Deb Runs

Tell me in the comments:

What’s your “why” to keep running?

In what ways has running helped you stay nimble?

What other ways do you try to keep your mind nimble?

15 thoughts on “Running Keeps Our Minds Nimble

  1. Very valid points. Running does feel like it repairs and restores my brain. It works much better than without a run. Hope this helps me when I get older … but yes … in the end it is about putting more quality into the little time we got.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy running so even if it didn’t help my brain, I’d still do it. I also like to do puzzles (crossword, logic, sudoku, jigsaw) and I think that helps, too.

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  3. Running definitely do not keep my brain nimble – just the opposite. I run to forget everything going on.

    I run for the physical (not mental) benefits.

    I do believe as you age, it is very important to keep your mind nimble.

    I think (hope) I do by working (and not retiring – no offense), crafts like knitting & quilting, weekly mah jongg game ( help the most).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been in therapy sessions with my brother (who has a mental illness) and have heard repeatedly how our brains need stimulation else it will atrophy just like a muscle. This can be in the form of exercise, doing something “new” so that it perks up and takes notice, or even simply sitting in the sunlight. I actually find all of this quite fascinating.

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    1. Sitting in sunlight, really? While I do love that — I feel like it recharges my batteries — it never really occurred to me that it could be considered stimulation.

      And yet sometimes it’s physiological — which is where exercise comes in. My FIL did all the right things, except the exercise, and he had dementia. Sometimes, of course, no matter what you do, you’ll fall prey to something. But study after study seems to indicate that exercise is so important for staving off that sort of illness.


  5. My dad was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We knew it long before the actual diagnosis. But I can’t help but rewind through his life and think of all the things he could have done differently. When I was a teenager he had a heart attack, open heart surgery — the whole nine. And his cardiologist had him running after that. He would run for an hour on the treadmill after work. I don’t know why he ever stopped but I can’t help but wonder “if he kept running would he…” I know there’s no way to change anything through speculation but one of my motivators when I started running was to stave off heart disease. Now it’s to keep memory loss and dementia at bay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Rachel, I am SO sorry. My FIL had dementia. It was very difficult. My Dad has the cognitive loss you might expect with a 91 year old, but not dementia–although really not so far away, sadly. He was very active when he was young; both my parents were. But they got more & more sedentary as they aged. I look at them & it’s not how I want to age–not if I can help it. 😔


  6. Well, I have a BIG birthday happening this month, and I’m in the best shape of my life (knock on wood). As you know, I run regularly, but I also do a lot of “brain” stuff (knitting, Suduko puzzles, etc.). Yes, I’m fighting this “aging” thing with a vengeance 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever really noticed.

      I think my husband & I have to pick somewhere we’ve always wanted to go and start learning a word in the language every day! We both need to exercise our brains more.


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