Exercise & Brain Health

shutterstock_492750550.jpgExercise is an important component of health aging especially when it comes to brain health. While there are no guarantees a healthy lifestyle will prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s, exercise will absolutely improve blood flow to the brain. Because as we age, the brain shrinks! It happens to everyone. As we age, our blood supply to the brain is reduced, which causes the volume of the brain to shrink. If you exercise, the blood supply to your brain will improve blood flow and increase your brain volume, which can slow the brain aging process.

Studies show that exercise, meaning exercising with purpose, increases the level of Brain -Derived Neuro-Tropic factor (BDNF), which is critical for neuroplasticity. (The ability for the brain to adapt) Exercise is also associated with the growth and creation of new brain cells which helps increase the volume of your brain.

Sustained aerobic exercise is not to be taken lightly or put off for another day, as brain function and cognition are essential in maintaining an independent and healthy life.

So what exercises are the best?
Studies indicate that thirty minutes of sustained aerobic exercise such as running every day will increase brain health, neural plasticity, brain function and cognition. That’s the BDNF factor I was referring to earlier.   For most of us, seven days a week is a big commitment and may not be practical or achievable. However, one can set a reasonable weekly goal. The objective here is to circulate more blood to the brain that will, in turn, increase the volume of the brain to prevent early dementia.
What about weight training or interval training? Both are good for you and other parts of your body such as your muscles, but there is no indication that it positively affects your brain the way aerobic exercise does.

 Proof that Exercise is good for the brain
Take a look at the  diagram below. The brain on the right lights up after activity.

Lots of women say to me, “ Yes, I know Dr. Brown exercise is really important but I just don’t have the time. “ What they are really saying to me is ‘exercise is not my priority’. I understand that. Exercise may not be your priority as you run from the carpool to take care of elderly parents and to finish your work. But if exercise is never your priority, if you are always last on your list and you will pay a huge price.

So my advice is that you allow yourself to be your priority at least part of the time.Let’s remember, when the flight attendance explains that when the oxygen comes down, put the mask on yourself first and then on the child beside you. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be here to take care of the others you care about!!


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