Everyone knows that exercise is vital for a healthy body, but research is showing that exercise prevents brain deterioration too. Older adults with poor fitness levels have more deterioration of “white matter” in their brains. White matter is comprised of millions of bundles of nerve fibers. It acts as the “computer cables” that connect various parts of the brain. White matter deterioration is linked with declines in decision-making brain function. Regular exercise can slow cognitive decline, and perhaps even dementia and memory loss.
How Exercise Prevents Brain Deterioration
Exercise is just as good for the brain as it is for the body, but a growing body of research is showing that aerobic exercise in particular appears to be the most helpful.
A study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that older adults with higher VO2 max scores (meaning they had better cardiorespiratory fitness) had less deterioration of the white-matter fibers in their brains.
Exercise likely improves brain health through a variety of ways. It makes your heart beat faster, which increases blood flow to your brain. Since the brain is the biggest consumer of oxygen in the body, adequate blood flow is essential for optimal brain function.
Physical activity also releases substances in your body that help repair and protect brain cells. Neurology research shows that exercise also helps grow new brain cells and neurons.
Exercise can also reduce the risks associated with common lifestyle diseases that negatively affect your brain, such as high blood sugar and high blood pressure.
Exercise and Stress on Your Brain
Exercise while under stress also helps protect your memory. The journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory reports that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for learning and memory.
Exercise Prevents Aging
Brain deterioration is only one consequence of unhealthy aging. The good news is that intense exercise can prevent all sorts of other negative effects of aging. The more physically active you are, the less biological aging takes place in your cells.
Telomeres are the endcaps of our chromosomes. They function as your “biological clock” and they’re extremely correlated with age. When one of your cells replicates, you lose a tiny bit of the endcap. So the older you get, the shorter your telomeres.
People who have consistently high levels of physical activity have significantly longer telomeres than those who have sedentary lifestyles.
Exercise science professor Larry Tucker (see the journal Preventive Medicine) found that adults with high physical activity levels have telomeres with a biological aging advantage of 9 years over those who are sedentary.
Start Exercising For Your Brain
Don’t let lack of exercise destroy your brain, or age you prematurely! Get with a Basics and Beyond personal trainer for exercise and nutrition instruction — we’ll help take care of your body AND your brain!