- Regular exercise
- Eating a nutritious and varied diet
- Managing emotional stress.
A study published in ‘Neurology’ concluded that being active protects the brain against age-related changes. A decline in complex thinking and memory has been linked to brain shrinkage (atrophy). A study at the University of Edinburgh consisted of 600 people aged 70 years and over, their physical, mental and social habits were noted. 3 years later all the participants were scanned to assess age related changes (brain shrinkage and damage to white matter which is the brain’s communication system). Data showed brain shrinkage was visible in people who participated in the least amount of exercise, however mental and social exercises seemed to have no effect on brain size.
Other studies support the University of Edinburgh’s findings. Kirk I. Erickson, PhD of the University of Pittsburgh, found that adults aged 60 to 80 who walked 30 to 45 minutes, three days a week over a year increased the volume of their hippocampus (important for memory) by 2%.
Exercise also protects the brain from stress, as exercising releases feel good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and norpinephrine which boost neurotransmitters and reduce the effect of stress hormones such as cortisol. Being active encourages the formation of new brain cells (neurogenesis). Ageing naturally causes the brain to produce fewer brain cells resulting in slow brain function. Physical exercise also regulates the production of brain chemicals and growth factors, such as BDNF which is essential for maintaining memory, task performance and general cognitive function. Additionally exercising increases insulin sensitivity which could help you make healthier food choices. According to studies, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease is almost quadrupled for people who are less active, compared to their peers.
Physical exercise is so important to your general health, and with the threat of Dementia in today’s world, why would you not exercise?