The positive effects of running
January 20th, 2020
Can exercise improve brain health and in what areas does it do so?
Regular aerobic exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors — chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.
Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment. 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.
How much exercise would I need to do every week to improve my memory?
Standard recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week. If that seems daunting, start with a few minutes a day, and increase the amount you exercise by five or 10 minutes every week until you reach your goal.
If you don’t want to walk, consider other moderate-intensity exercises, such as swimming, stair climbing, tennis, squash, or dancing. Don’t forget that household activities can count as well, such as intense floor mopping, raking leaves, or anything that gets your heart pumping so much that you break out in a light sweat.
Does the type of exercise matter?
Yes, the type of exercise needs to be aerobic…see above
Can exercise reverse brain aging as well as slow it down?
Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity.Physical exercise has an anti-aging effect on the hippocampus region of the brain – an area that controls memory, learning and balance. A study, comparing different forms of exercise – dancing and endurance training undertaken by elderly volunteers for eighteen months, highlighted that both can have an anti-aging effect on the brain, but only dancing corresponded to a noticeable difference in behaviour. This difference is attributed to the extra challenge of learning dancing routines.
Is there a certain age that these improvements stop working?
Several studies support the notion that physical activity is a significant moderator of age-related cognitive decline.
With increasing age, and specifically with advanced age (i.e. over 75 years), many individuals eventually develop one or more of a group of related medical problems referred to as geriatric syndromes. Perceptual limitations (vision and hearing problems), urinary incontinence, falls, delirium, and dementia are examples of geriatric syndromes.
These syndromes are characterized by having more than one cause and by involving several different body systems. With aging, the prevalence of frailty increases from 7% in older adults aged between 65 and 74 years to 18% between 75 and 84 years and 37% at age 85 years and older. Physical in-activity is a major risk factor for frailty. It is important to note that frailty is not a contraindication for physical activity. On the contrary, it may be one of the most compelling reasons to prescribe physical exercise.