Improving brain function with exercise

Thanks to our trainer Mitch O’Brien for writing today’s post on staying active to maintain a strong mind as we age – a big area of interest for Mitch!

Most of us associate the ageing process with the weakening of the mind, and many consider this decline inevitable.

However the science tells us that there’s actually a lot we can do to maintain our minds as we age, and structured regular exercise has a big role to play.

The facts: Ageing, your brain and exercise

In 2010, more than 24 million people worldwide were suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, and these numbers are set to double every 20 years. These conditions are incurable. We’re living longer lives, and we all want our “golden years” to be vibrant and independent for as long as possible. 

The research tells us that moving your body in a structured and purposeful manner can make a BIG difference to maintaining cognition. 

  • Any physical activity that gets the blood pumping increases the strength and flexibility of the mind and improves mood in short bursts
  • Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, as it strengthens and creates cognitive connections and speeds up processing. This stops thoughts getting bogged down in a traffic jam in the busy hub of the brain.
  • You may even be able to IMPROVE your brain. A 2016 study found that the brain even starts creating new links with regular low-intensity walking programs of six months. Instead of these brain links breaking down or simply stopping, some new connections were beginning to be made.

What can you do to improve your brain health?

Great news: you can get these cognitive improvements without huge amounts of training or a crazy disciplined diet.  

In a six-month program of multicomponent training, patients suffering from mild or moderate cases of Alzheimers saw great improvements. This program included 2 weekly sessions of 45-55 minutes with exercises targeting posture, muscle resistance, flexibility and aerobics. All exercises were simple and don’t  require little equipment and supervision.

Working towards a daily step count, say of 10,000 steps, is a great way to keep active. Throw in a couple of sessions a week with a personal training or exercise physiologist and you’re well on your way to taking charge of your brain health as you age.

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