There are many benefits to maintaining a healthy body. A new study suggests that exercise can also enhance your brain fitness as you age. Recent research published in the journal Clinic Interventions in Aging has shown that exercise can provide a wide range of physical benefits as well as cognitive protection.
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About the Study
Researchers divided 105 men and women aged 70-77 into three groups. The first group did supervised exercise twice per week using high-intensity interval training (HIIT), at a peak heart rate of 90%. The second performed moderate-intensity training with a 70% peak heart rate.
After one, three, and five years of exercise, brain volume, and cortical thickening were measured.
Research suggests that brain fitness is directly related to how much time you spend being active in a sport or other activity.
The first year saw a significant increase in cardiorespiratory fitness for all three groups. However, brain tissue loss was less severe for those with higher fitness levels than those who entered the study. But even those who started exercising earlier experienced some improvement in working memory.
What Experts Say
Dr. Haberg says that there was one important aspect to improve. It wasn’t related to heart rate or cortical thickness. It was whether participants felt in control of their choices. The most beneficial outcomes were found in those who could choose their exercise activity, the location they exercise, and whether they did so alone or with a buddy.
In healthy older adults, diligently following the guidelines for physical activity can have a significant cardiorespiratory impact.
Previous research has shown that this type of control can also be part of maintaining a regular exercise routine. It can help you have more fun with it. One study found that approximately 50% of exercise program participants quit within the first six months. However, those who experience positive emotions are more likely to stick with their programs for longer periods of time.
Exercise Is Good for the Brain
According to Santosh Kesari (MD, Ph.D.), a neuroscientist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, California, there are many reasons exercise can have an impact on the brain.
A sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of cognitive problems because it reduces blood flow to parts of the brain that are involved in memory functions.
Dr. Kesari explains that Aerobic exercise improves vascular integrity. This means it increases blood flow and function. Being sedentary can increase your risk of cognitive problems because there isn’t enough circulation to the brain’s functions such as memory.
He also said that exercise can increase the growth of brain connections and reduce inflammation. Both can play a part in lowering age-related brain health risks.
In Preventive Medicine, cognitive decline is nearly twice as common in adults who are not physically active than in those who do. Researchers concluded that physical activity is a public health measure to reduce dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Research has shown that strength and endurance training are both beneficial for older adults. However, it is possible to feel less overwhelmed if you recognize that all movement can be helpful.
The CDC suggests dancing and light yard work as activities for older adults and their brain health.
You can also do quick exercises like squats and marching in place while you watch TV. The CDC suggests keeping a simple log of your daily activities to help you increase your exercise and find new challenges every week.
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