<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=424649934352787&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Brains and Brawn: Exercise Body and Mind to Delay Alzheimer’s Dementia

November is national Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s disease, which has devastating effects on the brain’s cognitive functions, leads to diminished quality of life. Research continues on how to stave off these effects, but there is currently no known cure, leaving coping devices and techniques as essential to living. 

GettyImages-1089840096Links Between Physical Exercise and Brain Health

Can exercise and fitness help alleviate the effects of Alzheimer's disease and delay the onset of dementia? There is still little data to show that exercise is the cure, but there are plenty of links to improved brain function as a result of exercise. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic weigh in on the topic and how exercise is beneficial in more ways than we know.

Studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function, have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, and possibly have improved thinking among people with vascular cognitive impairment.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, with exercise comes improved blood circulation throughout the body, including the brain, leading to improvement in overall health.

Exercise every day. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all. It is recommended that older adults get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity (ACSM), some strength training to help maintain muscular strength and functionality, and a competent harmony of flexibility and balance.

Give Your Brain a Workout

It’s important to exercise your brain as well as your body. Here are some ideas to include in your daily workout regimen. As with physical exercise, developing healthy habits and daily consistency are keys to success. Much like physical exercise, one workout will not give you six-pack abs.

Exercise your brain every day. Try to learn something new (such as a new language or an instrument); do problem-solving puzzles, memory games, and crosswords; and continue to read, write, and learn in a variety of ways (including video games!) (WebMd.com).

Challenge Your Body and Your Brain

The similarities between physical exercise and brain exercises might not seem obvious, but with practice and commitment, the results of both become noticeable. With any workout program, you will want to find a healthy starting point. The NIFS staff has the tools and knowledge to ensure that your physical workout is tailored to your needs and specific to your goals. Although we can encourage you on your brain fitness quest, the real workouts will begin and end when you get up in the morning and go to bed at night, and will continue for the rest of your life. Make it a priority to challenge your brain.

Until next time, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood and posted in loving memory of him and all the great blogs he wrote for NIFS over the years. This was his last blog contribution and we honor him in posting it.

Topics: Thomas' Corner brain fitness dementia Alzheimer's exercise and brain health brain health

A Quick Look at the Science Behind Exercise for Brain Health

GettyImages-1009819802Often I ask my clients or athletes why they exercise. The most common answers that I get from them are “because I want to look better” or “for good health,” which are great reasons for sure. But what if I told you that exercise helps one of the most important organs in your body that doesn’t include any visible muscle: the brain.

The Effects of Exercise

I like to think that seeing physical changes are the only side-effects of exercise, but the main benefit is that with exercise you can improve memory retention, create new neurons, and essentially become smarter.

Increasing Neurotransmitters for Connections and Learning

Exercise contributes to many factors that help improve brain health. When you exercise you don’t think about this, but it increases your BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) levels. This neurotransmitter is responsible for many things in the brain, but I will list only a couple. BDNF is like fertilizer to neurons, which helps then grow. The more neurons you have, the higher your potential to make connections and learn new things. What BDNF also does is helps protect the neurons against cell death.

Increasing Glucose for Fuel and Learning

When you exercise, your muscles release IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) because your body needs fuel (glucose) to maintain that activity. In the brain, though, glucose is the main source of fuel. Some studies have shown that when IGF-1 is in the brain, it works with BDNF to increase learning instead of being used for fuel.

Increasing Growth Factor for New Brain Cells

The last benefit I will talk about is how exercise helps improve FGF-2 (fibro-blast growth factor). When you exercise, this is also transported to the brain and works together with BDNF to help with neurogenesis (growth of new cells). This has many benefits, such as new stem cells that can be used to learn new things as well as help with memory retention and reducing memory loss.

Learn More at NIFS

This is a very broad description of what goes on in your brain when you exercise and how exercise helps brain health. If you would like to learn a little more about this, I am happy to explain more in detail about the process that occurs in the brain. You can email me at pmendez@nifs.org.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health/Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.


Topics: memory brain fitness exercise and brain health brain health