12 Minutes a Day to a Better Brain

The Alzheimer’s Association has NO good answer for memory loss and dementia. That means your doctor will probably tell you that memory loss is “just normal aging.”

And Big Pharma drugs have been an epic fail. The medical industry’s solution so far has been to build more and more “memory unit” lockdowns in senior living facilities.

But for nearly three decades I’ve been helping my patients boost their brain health, stay sharp and improve their memory at any age. In all that time, I’ve found that one of the best strategies is to stay active. And science backs me up on this…

A new study from McMaster University proves that high-intensity exercise improves memory. Researchers divided a group of 95 healthy young adults into three groups. One group did 20-minute sessions of intense interval training. A second group did the same exercise program and some brain training. The third control group did nothing.

After just six weeks, the people who exercised showed significant improvements in their “high-interference” memory. That’s the kind of memory that allows you to tell your car from another of the same make and model. The control group had no improvement.

The exercisers also increased their supply of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is kind of like a “growth-hormone” for the brain. This protein increases the creation and growth of nearly every type of brain cell. It also increases the lifespan of existing brain cells. And it helps the brain develop new neural connections called synapses.

When BDNF levels are high, learning new things is easy and long-term memories are preserved. One study showed that people with the highest levels of BDNF develop dementia 50% less often than do people with lower levels.2

If you go to your local gym or YMCA, trainers will probably put you on a treadmill, step machine or stationary bike for an hour a day. They’re still stuck on the idea that you need to build up your endurance with hours of aerobic exercise. Even Harvard University still recommends that you do at least 120 minutes of cardio a week.

But when it comes to your brain, more cardio is not better. Here’s why…

Your brain burns through a lot of energy. And that energy is delivered to your brain by blood flow. In fact, your brain needs the most blood of any organ in your body. One-seventh of the blood from every heartbeat goes to your brain. And research links a weaker heartbeat and decreased blood flow to faster brain aging.3

But long cardio sessions shrink your heart. They reduce its capacity to pump lots of blood to your brain.

You get the most benefit for your brain with short, high-intensity intervals, like those in my Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion (PACE) principle.

PACE uses short bursts of activity that increase in intensity over time. This builds capacity in your heart and lungs. It allows more blood and oxygen to get to the organs that need them the most, especially your brain. One study showed that a workout program like PACE increased blood flow levels by more than 400%.4

The beauty of PACE is that you start wherever you are, whatever shape you’re in. You have total control over how you progress and where you are progressing to. And all it takes is 12 minutes a day. Forget about doing hours of cardio.

Practice PACE to Maximize Your Brain Power

To boost your memory right this instant, try doing three sets of this easy and effective PACE move. You can do it anywhere you have room to run.

  1. Run as fast as you can. Go all out. Exert yourself. Feel your adrenaline pumping.
  2. Then slow down to an easy pace when you feel you can’t go one second more. You should be panting hard. Take 3 to 5 minutes to recover. Focus on your breathing and feel it slowing down. Keep track of how long it takes for your breathing to return to normal. That’s how you monitor your progress.
  3. Now challenge yourself again. But this time, sprint a little faster than you did last time. Or go a little longer. If you’re panting but not so out of breath that you can’t talk, then you’re doing it right. Repeat for a maximum time limit of 12 minutes. Not a second more.

Start slowly. It may take you a few sessions to build up your stamina. That’s OK. Build your strength and endurance gradually. You’ll also be building up your heart and brain.

If you want to learn some other good PACE exercises, go to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/AlSearsMD/videos. I have more than 30 different exercises and a complete workout to help you get started.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD, CNS

1. Heisz JJ, et al. “The effects of physical exercise and cognitive training on memory and neurotrophic factors.” J Cogn Neurosci. 2017; 29 (11):1895-1907.
2. Weinstein G, et al. “Serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor and the risk for dementia: The Framingham Heart Study.” JAMA Neurol. 2014;71(1):55-61.
3. Jefferson Al, et al. “Cardiac index is associated with brain aging.” Circulation. 2010;122:690-697.
4. Adapted from: von Ardenne M. Oxygen Multistep Therapy. New York, NY: Thieme Medical Publishers, 1990, p144.