Exercise and Brain Health: Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Workout. The science is pretty clear: exercising and maintaining good health are some of the best things you can do to keep your body at peak performance. But when it comes to exercise, there are more than a few options. Exercise and brain health are closely related.
Are some forms of exercise better than others when it comes to the brain? Is there a right or wrong way to exercise when it comes to maximizing brain power? And how does exercise affect the aging brain?
Exercise and Brain Health
Clients of the Aviv Clinic who receive innovative hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments optimize their brain health, as their personalized treatment plan combines cognitive and physical training, in addition to receiving nutritional counseling.
As part of the program, clients exercise on the clinic’s state-of-the-art H / P / Cosmos medical treadmill. The combination of physical and cognitive effort maximizes the benefits of the treatment protocol.
How do cognitive abilities change with age?
While most Americans fear losing memory and cognitive abilities, very few do. As we age, a modest level of cognitive decline is inevitable due to the normal aging process. It is common to have memory problems and slow thinking. But older adults are also at higher risk for mild cognitive impairment and dementia, the latter of which includes conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
While some risk factors for these conditions are beyond your control, such as age, genetics, and family history, your overall health plays a role, too. Staying healthy and active can protect the brain.
Our brains haven’t changed much in the last 50,000 years, but our lifestyles have certainly changed. In the days of our nomadic, hunter-gatherer ancestors, life was a bit more physically demanding – our bodies are designed to move and be active. It seems that sitting can make us sick.
Exercise and brain health – woman with weight
According to LifeSpanFitness, these days the average American sits for 11 hours a day, and it is estimated that 20% of all deaths over the age of 35 can be attributed to a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of exercise, poor diet and the use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs are usually a starting point. Falling into this sedentary lifestyle can quickly lead to a downward spiral.
If there are underlying conditions or you have risk factors for certain conditions, a sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate them or lead to chronic disease. Chronic diseases are difficult to treat even with access to good medical care, but many people do not receive adequate care, further exacerbating current conditions. Helplessness and hopelessness about the situation can lead to anxiety and / or depression.
You may feel like you can’t live the life you used to be, and you may feel isolated. Unfortunately, declining physical and mental health can make you even less active, and this cycle continues. Your brain is not the only organ affected by this vicious cycle; This lifestyle can also lead to cardiovascular health problems. In fact, they seem to be intricately linked; In general, things that improve heart health also improve brain health.
How are exercise and brain health related?
Whenever you exercise, you pump more blood to your brain tissue, and with that comes a lot of oxygen and other nutrients, which are important for brain function. In response, the brain also produces some useful molecules. Here are some of the benefits of exercise for the brain:
Neurotransmitters (NTs) such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are released, improving mood, motivation, concentration, attention, and learning. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) helps your brain repair and rebuild itself, forming new neurons and connections.
Hormones work with BDNF and can improve your mood and mental clarity.
Endorphins and other molecules are released to help relieve pain.
Increased blood flow distributes nutrients and removes waste products.
hippocampus increases in volume
Two areas of the brain are particularly important when it comes to cognitive decline. Prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus. These areas are more vulnerable to cognitive degeneration or decline.
The hippocampus, responsible for memory and learning, is affected by exercise in some way. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can actually increase the amount of brain matter in the hippocampus, an area that often shrinks with age and will decline significantly with Alzheimer’s disease. This is also where a lot of neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells) takes place, at least if you’re getting enough exercise!
Exercise and Brain Health
The second area that directly benefits from exercise is the prefrontal cortex, the chief executive officer of the brain, responsible for most of our executive functions, including decision-making, attention, problem solving, and goal setting. Studies have shown that older adults, in particular, can benefit from exercise due to increased executive functioning.
What is the best type of exercise?
Pumping oxygen-rich blood to the brain seems to be the best way to reap the benefits of exercise. Therefore, aerobic (or cardio) exercise is a good starting point. While all types of exercise have benefits, most studies favor those that raise the heart rate and keep it that way for a period of time.
The “recipe” for most older adults is to aim for 30 to 45 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, 3 to 4 times a week. An easy way to track your progress is with a fitness tracker. Find out if they are right for you.
Moderate intensity can be measured by keeping your heart at an optimal rate, in this case 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, the maximum heart rate for a 70-year-old man would be 150.
This means that to exercise at the proper intensity, you must maintain a heart rate between 105-120. You must warm up and cool down for aerobic exercise, but don’t count it as part of your total. 30 to 45 minutes (as prescribed) should be when your heart rate is at the target rate.
Tips to get started
If you are like many (if not most) adults, you can start more toward the sedentary end of the activity scale. The exercise recipe above is an ideal goal and is used primarily because that is what they did in the studies that showed the best results for cognitive health.
However, other studies have shown that low intensity activities like walking (5 miles per week) and yoga can also be beneficial. Even if your goal is to achieve maximum exercise intensity, there are many ways to make exercise more fun, easier, and less stressful on brain health.
Find the movement you love
Exercise is all about movement, so find a way to move your body in a way that you enjoy. If it’s working, great. If you love to dance, dance! And there are always sports and leisure: gardening, golf, bowling, walking are all forms. Even window shopping or hula-hooping can count as exercise. Do you need more ideas? Try any of these non-boring exercises!
Finding a pace that you enjoy can help you shift your perspective and move away from goals like weight loss that can seem like a chore. Pay attention to the way exercise makes you feel and the pleasure you get from walking.
Start where you are:
If you’re already fairly active or have exercised a lot in the past, it’s probably easier for you to get started. If you are not as active as you could be, no problem! It is never too late to start a new exercise regimen.
If you really want to take advantage of the brain-boosting benefits of exercise, consider where you’re starting and build from there. If you are sedentary, engaging in an intense exercise routine can be physically difficult and mentally frustrating. If you are realistic about your goals and abilities, you are more likely to stick with them.
pay attention to the frequency
If you’ve had trouble starting an exercise routine in the past, you’re not alone. Exercising consistently means developing a new habit, and it is not an easy task. It takes time, effort, and consistency over a period of time to start any habit. But the wonderful advantage of habits is that once formed, they become automatic.
It can be tempting to jump to this full duration and / or intensity, but it’s also a good way to burn off. At first, it helps to focus more on when and how often you exercise rather than how long or how long you work. Even a few minutes a day are enough to tell the brain “this is what we do now.” Over time, you no longer need to remind yourself (or force yourself) to exercise. Once a habit is formed, it is very easy to increase the intensity and duration.
Exercise and Brain Health
Ultimately, it’s about moving more and being more active. There are many ways to get more exercise and to stop sitting. For example, if you sit a lot, you can try setting a timer to get up and walk every hour. Or start counting your steps and try to increase them every day.
Many of the classic ways to get more active are still great, like taking the stairs, parking, playing with the kids, or doing housework and cleaning. Set a goal to find a new way to do something every day.
So how long does it take before exercise starts? While many of the benefits of exercise can be felt immediately afterward, such as improved mood and energy, lasting results will take longer. Plan to give it at least six months to assess your brain’s progress.
When it comes to cognitive skills, measuring and evaluating can be challenging. You may not notice a substantial increase in cognitive ability. As there will be some cognitive decline due to normal aging, it is often a matter of slowing it down rather than reversing it entirely. It is also common for family and friends to notice a change before you do.
Conclusion on exercise and brain health
Find a movement that you enjoy and it will be much easier to find time to exercise. No matter what shape you are in or what activities you enjoy, you can find a way to optimize both your physical and cognitive health.
Science World provides a highly effective, technological, educational, health and fitness and science-based treatment protocol to enhance brain performance and improve cognitive and physical symptoms of conditions such as traumatic brain injury, fibromyalgia, Lyme, and dementia.
Our intensive protocol uses hyperbaric oxygen therapy, physical training, and nutritional management to improve brain health. The therapy program closely tracks clients’ progress before, during, and after the treatment protocol using personalized tablets and other technology. Based on more than a decade of research and development, Science World is holistic and tailored to your needs.
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