Most of us know that living an active lifestyle leads to less health issues later in life (massive body of research that supports this aside) ... Today we want to shed some light on just how exercise can affect and even offer protection against age-related changes in our brain and where other neurological disease, or injury has occurred.
As we age certain systems in our body can become less effective and a poor lifestyle can accelerate the decline of our cognitive functions. As we age our brain shrinks to a degree, in volume primarily in the frontal cortex. It’s not uncommon to have trouble recalling names at times, feel less organized you may even see increases in blood pressure and other biological changes but for the vast majority it doesn’t necessarily lead to more serious concerns.
Some of us may over time develop more serious declines that present in the form of neurological disease. These occur when nerve cells in the brain or peripheral nervous system lose function and frankly, these cells die. Conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease can increase with age and poor lifestyle. Researchers believe a person’s genes and environment can also be contributing factors.
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are two commonly known neurological diseases and can dramatically reduce a person’s quality of life. Research into neurodegenerative conditions and possible neuroprotective therapies is ever progressing. An active lifestyle is recommended for those suffering because of its association with improved motor symptoms. In 2009, researchers at the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project Increasing physical activity to at least 2.5 hours a week can slow decline in quality of life discovered that increasing physical activity to at least 2.5 hours a week can slow decline in quality of life. (1)
Let’s now circle back to how exercise and even more so what types can help prevent these cognitive declines. Numerous studies have shown that exercise helps to protect the brain’s health even into advanced ages. From a 2018 study titled “The Neuroprotective Effects of Exercise: Maintaining a Healthy Brain Throughout Aging, researched stated– Exercise initiates diverse and powerful neuroprotective pathways that may converge to promote continued brain health into old age.” (2)
In 2020 another paper titled “Possible Neuroprotective Mechanisms of Physical Exercise in Neurodegeneration” states the being regularly active- “carries out many protective and preventive activities such as improvements in memory, cognition, sleep and mood; growth of new blood vessels in nervous system; and the reduction of stress, anxiety, neuro-inflammation, and insulin resistance” (3)
Now that we’ve established the positive impact exercise has, we want to share some of the activities best suited to boost brain health whether preventative or if you are dealing with a more serious condition.
Activities to Battle and Help Prevent Neurodegeneration
- Activities that can increase your heart rate – running, swimming and biking as they pump more blood to the brain, delivering nutrients and oxygen. The calories you burn will help with weight loss and other factors that may be contributing to poor health. Whether you are just starting with a few steps or ready for a few miles, dedicate some time daily to getting that heart pumping. Equipment like our Lifepro Pacer or Electrostride treadmills make in-home cardio workouts easy and affordable.
- Weight and resistance training - Cardio can certainly be effective but can also present a challenge for some, especially those with heart conditions, pain or inflammation and other concerns. Weight and resistance training is also incredibly beneficial in improving brain health but also in gaining strength and muscle tone while improving balance and mobility. Lifepro recommends a low impact vibration plate to reduce time spent exercising with less impact to joints and fatigue levels.
Many of our members compliment other equipment by adding some hand weights for more strength and even toning once you are ready to progress. Our Power Up and Power Flow series of adjustable click weights are perfect for stand alone weight training sessions or to enhance your other routines as an add-on. They are great choices for small spaces or even light travel.
We want you to live your best and longest life. Start moving if you aren't active now, if what you are active and what you’re doing now isn’t working change things up, try something new. Keep moving forward whether its one step, one block or one mile at a time.
(1) More info for Parkinson’s Outcomes Project furthers research and changes lives at Parkinson.org/Outcomes.1.800.4PD.INFO
(2) Vecchio LM, Meng Y, Xhima K, Lipsman N, Hamani C, Aubert I. The Neuroprotective Effects of Exercise: Maintaining a Healthy Brain Throughout Aging. Brain Plast. 2018 Dec 12;4(1):17-52. doi: 10.3233/BPL-180069. PMID: 30564545; PMCID: PMC6296262.
(3) Mahalakshmi B, Maurya N, Lee SD, Bharath Kumar V. Possible Neuroprotective Mechanisms of Physical Exercise in Neurodegeneration. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Aug 16;21(16):5895. doi: 10.3390/ijms21165895. PMID: 32824367; PMCID: PMC7460620.